Leveraging Advances in Health IT to Prevent and Combat the Spread of Avian Influenza and Other Infectious Diseases

On behalf of the APEC Health Working Group (HWG) and in cooperation with the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF), NBR in association with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Asia Pacific (HiMSS) convened this one-day workshop on August 2, 2009, in Singapore. Policymakers, health care practitioners, IT experts and private sector representatives from thirteen APEC economies considered the challenges and opportunities of health information technology (HIT) to improve infectious disease surveillance, offering observations and recommendations from their diverse experiences. Initial conclusions were reported at the August 3-4 LSIF and the August 5-6 HWG meetings.

Workshop Final Report

Leveraging Advances in Health IT to Prevent and Combat the Spread of Avian Influenza and other Infectious Diseases (NBR, January 2010)

Agenda and Speaker Bios

Agenda | Participant Biographies

Seminar Highlights

Challenges and Opportunities. APEC economies are at different levels of development, particularly in regards to resources for IT infrastructure. National and regional “stovepipes” for policy formation and procurement decisions create challenges, as do the diversity of definitions, data, and collection methods within health care systems across borders. The importance of developing the right incentives for health care workers while keeping in mind funding restraints was discussed, as was the importance of considering cultural and behavioral patterns in developing and implementing HIT systems.

Conclusions and observations. A connecting theme throughout the day was that IT is a means, not an end. For HIT to be useful and to build health information exchange between APEC economies, a needs assessment and the development of health data standards are necessary first steps. Moreover, there must be also be a foundation of trust and communication, both formal and informal. Technology can then play a supportive role in attaining key objectives, and be used to address a range of challenges, including new outbreaks like H1N1.

Key recommendations. Various suggestions arose, addressing a wide range of ideas. These included recommendations to:

  • Develop data standards with consideration of technical compatibility
  • Build a system for health information exchange between APEC economies on priority areas (such as bio-surveillance, cross-border care and epidemiology)
  • Develop guidelines to share health data for use in medical research
  • Develop technical guidance for data sharing on disease outbreaks
  • Be intentional about cultivating political will
  • Develop better procurement strategies (multi-disciplinary)

The suggestion was also made to explore areas of potential collaboration among APEC sub-forums.