Digital maturity: An ecosystem perspective

The new HIMSS Digital Health Indicator is a new way of thinking about system-wide insights into digital maturity, said Tim Kelsey, SVP, HIMSS Analytics International.
By Dean Koh
03:29 AM

Summarizing one of the key questions from the examples of how technology is being used to support healthcare systems in China, Malaysia and the Philippines during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Tim Kelsey, Senior Vice President, HIMSS Analytics International asked: “How do we bank on those advances and build on the momentum?” 

At the closing keynote of the HIMSS APAC Malaysia Digital Health Summit, Kelsey said that one of the key priorities that have emerged or is emerging, in a very accelerated manner during the course of the pandemic, is the importance of digital maturity. That means the ability to measure the impact that digital investments (in healthcare) are having on service outcomes. 

“Without the ability to measure (the impact of digital maturity), we can’t expect to be able to manage,” he added. 

HIMSS Digital Health Indicator

HIMSS has worked for a number of years in supporting healthcare providers, health systems and payers to be able to measure their digital maturity. In April, the new Digital Health Indicator (DHI) framework was launched and it helps a health system, geography, region or even a country to assess their current levels of digital maturity and how they can improve that over time.

The DHI looks at four key measurements/outcomes: governance and workforce, interoperability, person-enabled health and predictive analytics. It builds on HIMSS seven maturity and adoption models, which include the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) and Infrastructure Adoption Model (INFRAM). The assessment of DHI is carried out virtually, so as to reduce administrative burdens. 

“It’s a new way of thinking about system-wide insights into (digital) maturity,” Kelsey said.

Measurement as an instrument in improving digital maturity

Guest speaker Dr Hwang Hee, Chief Information Officer of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH), South Korea said that from the perspectives of end users and hospital staff, there is a need for clear indicators to evaluate the contributions from digital healthcare technologies, in terms of areas such as patient care or more efficient management. 

“The DHI will help lots of hospitals understand the importance of digital health technologies as a key asset to facilitate their clinical practice in the real world,” he said.

Dr Hwang explained the decision behind SNUBH’s re-validation of its HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 achievement in 2016 and 2019 – it is not just for reputation and recognition but rather, the HIMSS maturity models and guidelines help them to make the appropriate decisions in how they can move to the next stage in terms of digital technologies. 

In 2017, the Ministry of Health chose SNUBH’s interoperability model as the South Korean government initiative to facilitate interoperability – this year, more than 3000 clinics and hospitals are participating in the interoperability program, which is funded by the government. Most members of the public can share clinical data between hospitals. Through this kind of interoperability model and initial results from some pilot tests which was published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, Dr Hwang said that there are savings of 7-10% in terms of medical expenditure from the national public budget. 

“It is a nice example of how the use of technology can lead to savings in budget or make efficient measurements using limited resources.”

With regards to the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea, Dr Hwang summed up his biggest lesson learnt from the crisis in one line: “Preparedness of IT technologies in an ordinary situation is directly related to the success for the adoption of digital technologies during a crisis situation.” 

Vision for the future and closing advice

Dr Hwang said that the DHI demonstrates the importance of analytics, and lots of governments are looking at how to use AI or predictive analytics for the empowerment of public health. However, his advice is to focus on having strong fundamentals such as having a good EMR system, good IT infrastructure, some levels of interoperability or standardization and governance. 

“We need to find out how to utilize analytics in a more extensive way,” he said. 

When asked by Kelsey about the single most important lesson for digital health implementation, Dr Hwang’s advice was: “Go back to basics, and always think about the value and evidence.”

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