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INTERVIEW - Data systems integration key to driving actionable insights in SEE healthcare

INTERVIEW - Data systems integration key to driving actionable insights in SEE healthcare Author: Panagyurishte municipality Licence: All Rights Reserved

SOFIA (Bulgaria), May 22 (SeeNews) - Healthcare organisations in Southeast Europe (SEE) need to integrate their data systems in order for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive actionable insights, a senior official at U.S.-based tech company IBM said.

"You can't get to AI or machines that learn until you understand the data you already have. And I think part of the challenge in this region is integration of the key systems, to understand all the data that you have to then drive actionable insights from that data," Mark O'Herlihy, IBM Watson Health, Managing Director, EMEA, told SeeNews in a recent interview.

Like other parts of Europe, SEE lacks integrated systems and electronic medical records adoption is comparably low, he noted, adding that the local healthcare organisations are still siloed and can be paper heavy. 

A major obstacle, O'Herlihy said, can be the reluctance to share data across organisations.

"I don’t think it is about money. You have to get departments to work together [...] and sharing data is still a big issue. And that is not just unique to Bulgaria."

According to a recent study by market researcher IDC, 29% of healthcare organisations in Central and Eastern Europe plan to increase by more than 10% their spending on IT in 2019, as compared to just 10% in Western Europe and 14% across Europe. As many as 24% of healthcare providers in CEE plan to raise their IT spending by 5 to 10% versus 19% in Western Europe and 20% across Europe.

In 2016 IBM designed and together with other vendors implemented at the Bulgarian multi-specialty UniHospital a solution, the first of its kind,  which connects the hospital's medical systems and brings data from disparate applications and equipment together to offer a real-time view of patient’s condition via a web portal. All patient records, MRI scans and other medical applications are hosted onto a single data center, significantly speeding up the full cycle - from the right diagnosis to the right treatment.

"You have the same ecosystem as most of Europe, you have similar funding constraints, the same issues with regards to access to information and providing better insights for care," O'Herlihy noted.

Most of the time you bring new technology to the public to save money or to get rid of inefficiencies, the IBM official explained.

According to another IDC study, personalisation of clinical pathways and clinical decision support/evidence-based medicine are the two main areas where European heathcare providers plan to use AI. Compliance check and reporting on the quality of data and optimisation of resource utilisation and turnover come next.

"AI as a term is sometimes all encompassing but what it is trying to do is create actionable insights from the data," O'Herlihy went on to say.

"People need to stop thinking, 'This is some super tech thing I cannot get to'.The real benefit of AI is the learning component, the fact that you can have another system that can help you get more information from the data you already have."