How to Succeed at Digitizing Healthcare

by Puneeth Narayana
Technologist, Wipro Digital

While digitizing healthcare has long been a priority for governments and public service agencies worldwide, it’s typically a painful and costly experience. The process is long and arduous and faces inertia both institutionally and from the stakeholders involved.

Ireland has managed to avoid this fate. The country is unique in that it doesn’t have a national infrastructure, but rather lots of local infrastructure and local centers of excellence. The Irish digitization model, spearheaded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Ireland, implemented an approach that has proven to be very effective.

Irish hospitals are leading the charge in ICT innovation

Under the auspices of the HSE, the eHealth Ireland initiative’s entire philosophy around Information Communication Technology (ICT) was in the power of starting small.

They began with a few specific use cases, and then worked on backward and forward integration to incorporate each step into the healthcare delivery process. The systems varied from storing and retrieving patient information, to a high-priority electronic drug file and prescribing system, which removes costly human errors in the drug prescription process.

eHealth Ireland recently showcased three exemplary case studies of ICT implementation in hospitals: the electronic health record portal at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, the National Epilepsy Electronic Patient Record, and an ePharmacy solution set including hospital-based ePrescribing at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin.

The most important thing to learn from this initiative adopted in Ireland is how the individual institutions like Temple Street Children’s University Hospital started with just a few departments and specialties, and then moved into creating bespoke cross-department ICT tools which helped both the service providers and patients alike. Another interesting use case is when they created a bespoke ICT solution for epilepsy and then spread that across the country.

Small, targeted, departmentally- demographically- and specialty-focused projects can serve as prototypes to learn the best practices to implement ICT in respective domains. This can help bring about vital cross-domain capacity building, which in turn leads to critical understanding of ICT, healthcare systems, the institutions which govern them, and the synergy required to make various pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Key takeaways on the successful implementation of a digitization approach

  • This process needs professionals from both ICT and Healthcare industries to closely interact with one another.
  • Professionals must understand the intricacies of their respective domains and arrive at an approach that is suitable for the project at hand.
  • The process is risky: since there have been very few projects that have been affordable and successful on a massive scale, it is important to learn as you go.
  • There cannot be a one size fits all solution due to so many cultural, social and geographical factors that are associated with the Healthcare delivery. It is intricately associated with the public services, governmental institutions and a myriad of highly localized factors.

Great interdisciplinary collaboration is the only way digitization of healthcare can be successful. The Irish are providing a great example of what can be achieved at the intersection of healthcare and digital technology.

Originally posted on Wipro Digital, an innovation-led, digital transformation partner built for today’s digital challenges.

Tagged: Digitisation, Health, ICT Innovation

Originally published at on March 22, 2016.

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