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IT provides patients with a better overview

Modern IT systems can help the healthcare sector to improve the quality of life for citizens.

Published in Altinget 16 october 2018. By Steffen Hou

Denmark is top of the international class when it comes to digitalization of the healthcare sector. Danes, for example, have easy access to a number of online self-service solutions, and details of our personal health information are only a few clicks away.

However, in order to maintain our position at the top, we need to modernize legislation because it is currently preventing coordination between systems, says Jan Kold, Deputy Director of IT Service Provider, NNIT.

It is not enough for citizens to have easy access to their health data; other relevant healthcare providers should also have access to the same data.

"In Denmark we have built up a deep understanding of digitalization. Since the 1970s, we have collected healthcare data based on our strong tradition of data security. But if we are to remain world leaders, legislation needs to allow for the structured exchange of data, which in the greater scheme of things will serve to meet the needs of citizens," says Jan Kold.

Better treatment

Today, the healthcare system is characterized by many different IT systems, controlled by different "owners" in municipalities, hospitals and GP's surgeries. On top of this, private healthcare providers such as dentists and physiotherapists also have their own individual IT systems. If there were greater uniformity across these systems, they would be able to offer patients better and more coordinated treatment.

If Mrs. Jensen, for example, is suffering from COPD or another chronic disease, the information about her condition is typically spread over close to 50 different systems. In concrete terms, this means that Mrs. Jensen has to retell her health story every time she meets a new provider, and this person is left with a fragmented picture of Mrs. Jensen's condition. They must then put the pieces together on the basis of their own observations; instead of using the valuable knowledge already collected by other parties involved in her case.

For example, if Mrs. Jensen's GP was given the opportunity to exchange more relevant data with hospitals and other healthcare providers across the regions, they would be able to make her treatment far more effective.

"Not all healthcare providers need to know everything. We need to maintain our strong tradition of data security so people can be assured that their personal data is always treated confidentially. This is a challenge that requires smart solutions during the modernization our IT infrastructure. Clearly, we want to pave the way for better treatment and prevention of diseases through the intelligent use of data, and there is no reason why the system should be as fragmented as it is today," says Jan Kold, who has inside knowledge from being the IT Director of the Capital Region of Denmark for ten years.

Protecting citizens through IT

The huge dataset collected on Danes through generations, from the first school dentist and pediatrician visits and throughout adulthood, can be used to prevent many lifestyle diseases and predict hereditary conditions. All we need to do is use the existing data better, Jan Kold points out.

The current legislation places many limitations on which data can be exchanged between different healthcare providers. Data is not allowed to be exchanged between regions, and even though Mrs. Jensen has given her consent for all relevant parties to have access to essential information about her disease, it is still often impossible because there are no common solutions enabling the various IT systems to work together.

"There is a need for more concentrated efforts to ensure that legislation and systems are adapted to the reality of the patient. We are already very good at looking after people's data; we are just not very good at giving patients the benefit of this data. If it becomes possible to coordinate this data more closely, we can use IT to protect citizens against epidemics and reduce the number of sick days," says Jan Kold.

Greater focus on IT

In view of the many opportunities for data-based treatment and prevention, Jan Kold would like to see a greater focus in healthcare policy on how to create better coordination between systems. The Government's plan for restructuring the healthcare sector should include IT in its considerations from the outset, and these considerations should be backed up by the necessary investment.

"We need to move digitalization higher up on the agenda and ensure that it is implemented across different sectors. It is not enough for the Ministry of Health to only consider the Health Data Act, the Ministry of Justice to only consider the Personal Data Act, and the Ministry of Finance to only consider the economy. IT is not just an expense or a complex change; IT is the key to coordinating different areas and making changes that serve to meet the overall needs of citizens," says Jan Kold.

He points out that it is in the public interest for the healthcare sector to structure and exchange knowledge about its citizens, rather than leaving future ownership of this data to commercial companies such as like Apple and Fitbit. In recent years, companies have gained a great deal of knowledge from Danes who gladly share information about their latest runs, dietary habits, medication intakes or weight loss routines.

"In five to ten years, these companies will have collected enormous amounts of data about their users through apps and smartwatches. It would be a great pity if commercial companies owned the majority of knowledge about the health of the Danes; instead of the public sector that is actually treating them," says Jan Kold.



Jan Kold+45 3075 3933jakd@nnit.comVice President Kold



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