First medical data-sharing hub goes live in SA Leave a comment

A hub for the electronic transfer of patient health information within the private healthcare sector is now officially available in South Africa.

Labelled the “first of its kind” in SA, CareConnect Health Information Exchange (HIE) was officially unveiled to industry players and stakeholders yesterday, after coming online late last year.

Founded by six of the country’s hospital groups and medical scheme administrators – Netcare, Life Healthcare, Mediclinic, Momentum Health Solutions, Medscheme and Discovery – CareConnect HIE promises toease the burden of access to patients’ data.

CareConnect HIE facilitates the authorised exchange of information between hospitals, clinicians and medical aids. This makes it possible for healthcare professionals to access the complete view of a patient’s up-to-date health records.

In addition, hospital admissions personnel can use CareConnect HIE to access all necessary administrative details when patients are admitted for elective procedures.

Dr Rolan Christian, CEO of CareConnect, described the launch of the patient information exchange system as a “huge” milestone, saying it’s of “great magnitude” in the healthcare industry.

“The CareConnect HIE will allow clinicians to access up-to-date, real-time, consolidated clinical information about their patient’s journey across the healthcare ecosystem, thereby improving the speed, quality and coordination of care.”

Christian said it’s no secret that in the South African healthcare sector – private or public – the healthcare system is “highly fragmented and this impacts delivery of healthcare, not only from a patient but from a cost and quality perspective”.

He continued: “Across these systems, the key element is data and information, and that’s what we need to drive innovation. It is the data that needs to be democratised to all the relevant players in the industry – clinicians, administrators, medical aid schemes and hospitals.

“For patients, access to the HIE can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation or when travelling, as the treating doctor will be able to access critical, up-to-date health information in real-time, on any device, be it a laptop, mobile phone or tablet, wherever they are.”

CareConnect CEO Dr Rolan Christian.

CareConnect CEO Dr Rolan Christian.

Health information exchange, or HIE, is the mobilisation of healthcare information electronically across organisations within a region, community or hospital system.

They are found in healthcare organisations in countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Ireland and Finland, to name a few.

According to Christian, CareConnect HIE is built on the InterSystems HealthShare technology platform, which has been widely used in the development of HIEs across the globe.

The CareConnect HIE will enable interoperability between different systems, like medical scheme administrators, clinics, hospitals and rehabilitation centres, he stated. “This bodes well for the future of the entire health system, as it will allow for information from a variety of sources to be securely integrated.”

Matthew Prior, chairman of CareConnect’s board of directors, added the need for a more integrated approach to healthcare in the private sector was a key driver in developing the HIE.

“From the get-go, there was recognition by hospital groups and medical scheme administrators that greater efficiencies could be achieved by providing clinicians with relevant and meaningful patient information when and where they need it.”

Given that CareConnect HIE enables the exchange of information between medical schemes and hospitals to facilitate efficient processing, the CEO emphasised the system has controls in place so that nothing happens to patients’ data.

According to Christian, privacy, confidentiality and information security are the cornerstone of HIEs and paramount to CareConnect HIE.

CareConnect HIE complies with all applicable laws governing the processing of personal information, the protection of personal information, patient or member consent and data protection, he noted.

This includes local and international data privacy regulations, namely ISO 27001/27701, the Protection of Personal Information Act, Medical Schemes Act, National Health Act, and General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union.

“Information remains protected at all times and may only be accessed by verified medical practitioners and other authorised individuals when medically necessary and only with a patient’s consent. Patients are also able to revoke their consent at any time.”

CareConnect explained that information will only be accessed by authorised users, meaning only healthcare professionals and associated support staff.

It stated: “Clinicians, nurses and certain administration staff will be able to access the information. However, access to the information is dependent on the specific role of the user; for example, an administrative person will not be permitted to access clinical information but will only have access to demographic information.”

The plan is evolve from sharing data with medical schemes and hospitals, to sharing it with radiology practices, pathology laboratories, clinicians’ practice management systems, as well as all other stakeholders in the healthcare system chain, said Dr Boshoff Steenekamp, industry affairs and communications committee chairman at CareConnect.

“CareConnect has recently established a clinical services unit and will appoint someone who will champion this clinician participation.”

Christian concluded: “While the CareConnect HIE is still in its infancy, the number of lives and transactions are constantly growing, with founding member organisations already beginning to derive value from the HIE through streamlined hospital admissions procedures and the introduction of new efficiencies into their systems.”


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