Vienna conference sets out priorities for healthcare ICT

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Establishing electronic health records and connecting the information with hospital and remote environments such as the physician’s office and private homes should be the top priorities for improving the quality of healthcare over the next two years, according to senior healthcare professionals.

39% of the senior professionals consider the top healthcare delivery priority to be the development of a regional or national electronic health record, according to a recent HIMSS survey, due to be published today at the conference.  

The survey drew its conclusions from the answers of 192 healthcare executives interviewed between 10 August and 1 October 2007. 

Moreover, 36% of the respondents support the strengthening of ITC connections to cover all the environments where physicians are necessarily operative. 

What’s more, just 29% of the executives think that improving technology to reduce medical errors should be a priority, and spreading clinical knowledge to users is considered relevant by only 27% of those participating in the survey. 

Regarding business issues in the healthcare sector, the executives’ main recommendation is improving the quality of care (49%), with patient satisfaction considered a business priority by 43% of the sample and the adoption of new technology relevant for 37%. 

The most important healthcare ICT application is considered to be the clinical data repository, followed by clinical information systems. 

Meanwhile, the survey identified the lack of strategic ICT plans as the biggest barrier to the implementation of ICT in the healthcare sector. 

A clear majority of the sample expect an increase in both budget and staff for the healthcare sector in the years to come. 62% believe the operating budget will increase in 2008, while 25% think there will be no change. Only 5% say that the budget will decrease. 65% envisage an increase staff numbers in 2007. 30% consider this increase will be between 2% and 9% compared to current levels. 

Among the innovative projects discussed during the conference is EuResist, a Commission-funded initiative to facilitate the identification of the best therapies for HIV patients through the use of a huge, European integrated data set. 

Alec Walker-Love, HIMSS communications manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told EURACTIV that "the conference is an important step forward, but a simple figure makes it easier to understand the potential of the sector. In the USA the same event gathers 25,000 people".

Nevertheless, there is still much to be done to increase the participation of European experts in these events and as, a consequence, raise their awareness of e-health issues, he added.

The 'World of Health IT' conference and exhibition, taking place from from 22-25 October in Vienna, Austria, is Europe's largest event in the health information technology sector.

The event, whose debut took place last year in Geneva, Switzerland, is organised by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). In its second edition, it brings together over 2000 stakeholders and participants.  

Spread over four days, the 'World of Health IT' conference features over 50 workshops on specific topics for an expert audience. Participants include physicians, nurses, IT professionals, health information technology users and buyers, health authorities and policymakers, as well as standardisation organisations and software and hardware development companies. 

The event includes a wide exhibition, providing international companies with a platform to showcase their state-of-the-art solutions and future innovations in the health information technology sector. 

HIMSS is a healthcare industry organisation representing over 20,000 individual members and over 300 corporate members. 

  • 22-25 Oct. 2007: 'World of Health IT' Conference and Exhibition, Austria Center, Vienna, Austria. 
  • Feb. 2008: US edition, Orlando, Florida. 

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