'Global standards with local implementations'

HIMSS, HL7 International and IHE international announced the formation of the Global Consortium for eHealth Interoperability earlier this year during the closing keynote of today’s programme at HIMSS & Health 2.0 Europe Digital Conference. Their main objective is to enable national governments, health systems and stakeholders to use interoperability standards and implementation guidance to improve clinical and financial outcomes. They want to address barriers and accelerate the deployment of the latest API-based interoperable standards, which ensure data can be accessed in a unified secure manner.

Dr Erik Gerritsen, Secretary General, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Netherlands and Dr Don Rucker, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), HHS Office of the Secretary, US, were speaking at the Evening Keynote: Building a Global Consortium for eHealth Interoperability session, moderated by Catherine Chronaki, General Secretary, HL7 Europe and the President Elect of the European Federation for Medical Informatics (EFMI).

Construction is part of a bigger ecosystem

According to Gerritsen, “Optimism is a moral duty” if you want to achieve global eHealth interoperability. He said the pandemic has strengthened the case for global interoperability and he explained why this consortium would succeed: “Construction is part of a bigger ecosystem that is getting more and more aligned, and together with our American friends, we will connect this construction with the global digital health partnership, which are the national digital health authorities from about 30 countries.

“It is really a unique bottom-up movement of governments and this consortium is going to grow into a de facto authority of the community, including the health IT industry, and with HIMSS, we have the right partner.

“You only need a coalition of willing and able and doing, and if you have a few mice, some elephants, and some lions, then we can just start and get this de facto standardisation working. Together we can develop the right tools and have the power to implement them with speed and that’s how we get impact: global standards with local implementations,” Gerritsen continued.  

Dr Don Rucker, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), HHS Office of the Secretary, US, said this coalition had more to offer than previous ventures: “If you look historically, HL7, IHE and HIMSS have all brought somewhat different approaches and skill sets to the table. Bring in some different approaches and angles and there’s value there.

“HIMSS is, along with the global digital health partnership, the platform to get this along. Some of this is at a very high level, this allows the lower level standards’ organisations to have communication channels, so they can synchronise, harmonise the technical specifics, so it’s very complimentary in that joint way. That’s what we need, because the bottom line is, healthcare is innately complex,” said Rucker.

Consortium helps bridge different dimensions

Human biology is of course extremely complex, and not even fully representable by computers to begin with. Rucker added: “There are more data points within each cell than there are computer storage bits, and bites, on the planet.

“When you get right down to every molecular interaction, and every three dimensional structure, so biology, and healthcare, has always been a bit of a reductionist exercise, from a philosophic point of view, but I think this consortium helps us bridge those different dimensions”.

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