Connecting Leaders and Information Technology for Health Transformation : Sally Glass & John Galss, Founders, CHIK Services Pty Ltd., Australia

CHIK Services Pty Ltd is a non-for-profit company established to provide global communication services bridging the health and information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

CHIK connects local and global leaders with information technology to support healthcare transformation. 

CHIK’s key drivers are sustainable, affordable healthcare delivery; the application of appropriate technology; and regional development.

While the global financial downturn creates much uncertainty in the economies of our nations, there is contrasting certainty in the growing recognition of a vibrant health sector’s potential to contribute to economic stability and growth.Although the body of evidence linking a strong health sector and a strong economy has been growing steadily over recent years, recent economic turmoil has served to increase the visibility.  This is most notable in the USA where President Obama’s health agenda has catapulted health transformation enabled by e-health to the top of the national priority list and in doing so has raised e-health’s profile in the consciousness of leaders in many countries around the world.Healthcare transformation will play a significant role in economic growth and it is only a matter of time before other countries also invest in this vital sector of the economy as they look to stabilise their economies.E-health technologies, systems and processes are critical to the required transformation of healthcare.Based in Australia, CHIK Services (CHIK) is at the forefront of these issues – uniquely positioned in the e-health space, CHIK connects leaders and information technology for healthcare transformation.

CHIK’s genesis � a personal journey

CHIK Services (www.chik.com.au) is a phoenix that arose from the ashes of the Collaborative Health Informatics Centre (CHIC) that closed its doors in 2002 after government funding ceased.

My belief � that information technology is an essential underpinning for the delivery of safe, accessible, quality healthcare � was a key driver in my becoming an e-health advocate in the early 1990s.  For me this was a natural progression from hands-on nursing roles in high-tech environments such as intensive care.

So when CHIC closed down (leaving me downhearted and out of a job) it was natural for my husband John and me to buy the assets and engineer a seamless transition into what is now CHIK Services.

CHIK’s focus on making connections and delivering pragmatic services that are appreciated by the market has led to our unique position as a trusted, independent, privately-funded organisation working to advance e-health issues and make connections between all the players in the health sector (in Australia and further afield).

In 2009, seven years since its establishment, CHIK is recognised for services that provide innovative and effective ways of increasing dialogue and action on the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in transforming healthcare delivery.

The Australian Health Sector

The Australian health sector consists of interweaving relationships between payers, providers and the delivery of healthcare services.  It is governed by the national Australian Government and eight state and territory governments.  Both levels of government fund and provide healthcare; and in some jurisdictions local governments also play a role.  The non-government sector is made up of individuals, private hospitals, non-government service providers, private health insurers and other non-government funding sources. Together, these groups fund and provide healthcare to over 21 million people, spread over 7.6 million square kilometres.

The degree of complexity and the number of stakeholders involved in the Australian health sector has been mapped by CHIK in Diagram 1.

Together, these stakeholders deliver healthcare within home, community and hospital-based settings, predominantly in urban and rural locations and less frequently across vast distances.  Responsibility and funding of public hospital and community based services are separated and as a result, information sharing between stakeholders tends to be fragmented.  This means that there is not a single entity within the Australian healthcare system that has responsibility for developing and implementing a ‘whole of system’ approach to allow the sharing of information between these settings through electronic health records and other e-health initiatives.

Making E-Health Connections

In a disparate and complex system, making connections between the different levels of government, health providers and the private sector is vital and it is a role that has evolved for CHIK over its seven years of operation.

CHIK facilitates communications between government agencies, public and private healthcare organisations and providers in acute, primary, specialist, community and aged care settings, health ICT industry suppliers and associations, many SMEs, plus academics and researchers.  Its strength comes from its independence, its knowledge and its extensive relationships and broad network of contacts that span the public and private sector within Australia and abroad.

Soon after its establishment, CHIK convened an Advisory Panel to consider strategic and philosophical ‘big picture’ issues relevant to the delivery of health services and to identify practical methods by which the health ICT industry can assist in achieving key healthcare delivery goals. Members attend in their own right, not as representatives of their respective organisations, and play no part in commercial or managerial aspects of CHIK Services.  We have been fortunate to attract many high profile Australian, New Zealand and International advisers to our annual Advisory Panel meetings.

Examples of the Advisory Panel’s outputs are the Global Health Knowledge Base Cycle (2005) (See Diagram 2) and the “Pebble in the Pond” discussion paper (2008).

CHIK Services uses a number of methods to connect healthcare providers, policy makers and funders with health ICT product and service providers.  One of these is a fortnightly e-newsletter service that acts as a key communication tool, providing a synopsis of the latest health ICT industry news, trends, events and business opportunities (tenders and grant programs).  Over 12,000 readers – companies, institutions and individuals – within Australia and overseas receive the newsletter.

CHIK facilitates regular meetings of Chief Information Officers from private hospitals throughout Australia, providing them with opportunities to interact and meet with public hospital peers, with national organisations such as the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) and Medicare Australia, and to interact with visiting VIPs.

Another of CHIK’s facets is as a provider of specialist health ICT research.  The professional team has extensive knowledge of the health ICT sector and provides research and information services tailored to meet the specific requirements of health/ICT professionals, health and government organisations, and ICT companies.

CHIK’s commissioned research specifically advises on:

  • Current health ICT issues, trends and new technologies;
  • Health ICT market trends and opportunities in Australia or overseas; and
  • ICT products/services identification or evaluation.

Research initiated by CHIK is supported by research syndicates made up of organisations that seek exclusive access to the results for a defined period prior to broader release. The latest syndicated research to be published by CHIK is Australian eHealth Market: Acute Care 2004-2010 that was released to syndicate members in March 2009 (and will be more broadly available from 1 August 2009).

Our Interconnected World

CHIK’s association with the USA-based Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) resulted in joint efforts to help establish a series of HIMSS AsiaPac conferences in the Asia Pacific region.  The first event, HIMSS AsiaPac07 in Singapore, attracted more than 1100 attendees, the second in Hong Kong in 2008 attracted over 1500 attendees and third in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year brought over 1800 people together to share their experiences.

“In 2006 CHIK established Australia’s first Health-e-Directory www.health-e-directory.com.au – which provides a comprehensive listing of products and service solutions for e-health”

As the local contact point CHIK brought its relationships with key organisations and individuals and its extensive understanding of the Asia Pacific region to bear. CHIK was responsible for building relationships across the region including drawing together the Advisory Board and Organising Committee, recruiting supporting organisations plus exhibitors and sponsors.

Over the years, CHIK has hosted delegations to many international e-health conferences.  These include the annual HIMSS meetings in the US (where CHIK is an invited Co-Sponsor); the Healthcare Computing Conference in the UK; and the inaugural World of Health IT in Geneva.

CHIK’s Health-e-Directory

With continued growth of the Australian health ICT sector, CHIK identified the need for a consistent, reliable and comprehensive source of information on health ICT solutions.  In 2006 CHIK established Australia’s first Health-e-Directory www.health-e-directory.com.au – which provides a comprehensive listing of products and service solutions for e-health.

The Health-e-Directory service, a combined online and in print directory, is recognised as an independent, trusted source of information about health ICT product and service providers that support the Australian and New Zealand markets.  Interest in listing is also increasing from companies across the Asia Pacific region.

The Directory is freely available online and annual print editions are distributed free of charge to influencers and purchasers of health ICT products and services in all health settings. It demonstrates the breadth and depth of Australia’s e-health product and service capability to potential customers, business partners and investors within Australia and overseas. Listing in the Directory is available freely to all, with packages ranging from free basic listings to detailed paid listings and advertising.

Endorsed by government, industry and professional associations and extensively promoted within Australia, New Zealand and further afield, the 2009 print edition was launched by Australian & New Zealand High Commissioners at the Australian High Commissioner’s residence in Kuala Lumpur in February.

CHIK expects the Health-e-Directory service to grow in diversity, demand and geographical reach as our region continues to experience increased interest and collaboration in e-health enabled healthcare.

Casting a ‘Pebble in the Pond’ of Current Thinking

In a discerning and timely move, towards the end of November 2008, CHIK released A Pebble in the Pond: A Vision for E-Health Enabled Healthcare Transformation.  Via this discussion paper CHIK calls to extend the healthcare reform debate beyond the health arena, establishing it as a national priority worthy of a concerted, whole-of-government approach.

“A Pebble in the Pond” presents a vision for e-health enabled healthcare transformation and identifies key elements that make up that vision, as well as elements that need to be in place to enable the vision to be realised.

In laying out its vision, the paper highlights the need for basic mechanisms for broader collaboration and consultation across the sector.

It presents a consensus view arising out of discussions at the latest meeting of CHIK’s Advisory Panel held in September 2008. The meeting involved over 20 thought leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and the United States.

CHIK has positioned the paper to clearly articulate the need to:

  • recognise that the viability of our health system affects every aspect of Australia’s future (both social and economic).
  • move the healthcare reform debate beyond the health arena, establishing it as a national priority worthy of a concerted, whole-of-government approach.
  • recognise the critical role that e-health plays in achieving successful health reform.
  • bring stakeholders with seemingly divergent views and interests together to remind ourselves that what we are striving for is essentially the same.

“CHIK believes that Australia’s healthcare community and the community at large want to get behind effective national leadership to move forward with a common purpose, as well as a sense of urgency.  “

“A Pebble in the Pond” was disseminated widely and we continue to receive positive feedback from a range of stakeholders including healthcare professionals and senior executives from government, healthcare providers and the e-health industry.  The discussion paper is available at www.chik.com.au

Health-e-Business: Economic & Social Imperatives of E-Health

As CHIK is in the business of making connections, its participation and presence at industry forums is critical. From the company’s beginnings to the present day, CHIK provides opportunities for people to connect – whether at CHIK conferences or conferences managed in association with CHIK, via delegations to international conferences, industry briefing sessions or in facilitated forums and workshops.

CHIK’s seminal event is the annual Health-e-Nation Conference and Exhibition www.health-e-nation.com.au.  Health-e-Nation brings together key international and Australian executives, clinicians and decision makers to explore the role of information and communication technology as enablers of health service reform. In 2009, Health-e-Nation will engage health, e-health and business leaders around the theme “Health-e-Business: Economic & Social Imperatives of E-Health”.  It will be held in Canberra, Australia’s national capital and seat of the federal government on 19th August with associated events for industry leaders on the 18th an 20th August.  For the second year the Health-e-Nation conference will be run in conjunction with HIC’09 � providing a full program of events from 18 � 20 August 2009 and a 3 day exhibition spanning both conferences.

This is a time of great change, both economic and operational. As a result of these pressures, CHIK believes important decisions will be made in the next 12 to 18 months on the direction and scope of major e-health implementations.  Health-e-Nation will provide an opportunity for stakeholders in e-health and healthcare to learn more about what the future holds for the sector.  We will be bringing together health and e-health leaders from Australia, New Zealand, India, UK, US, and Canada for stimulating debate and to chart the path forward.

Looking Forward

I am extremely proud of all that CHIK has accomplished in our seven year history.  Based on feedback received from many knowledgeable stakeholders, I believe CHIK is unique in its structure and the services we provide, and is a model that may have a place in other parts of the world.

CHIK believes that Australia’s healthcare community and the community at large want to get behind effective national leadership to move forward with a common purpose, as well as a sense of urgency.  This theme is echoed across the globe as nations publicly recognise that now is the time for health and e-health to take their rightful place as not only social priorities but as key national economic priorities. I look forward to CHIK continuing to be a key player in Australia’s e-health sector and to identifying new opportunities for CHIK to connect people and information technology around healthcare transformation agendas.

Further information on CHIK can be found at www.chik.com.au

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