HIMSS Liège, 3/28-29: Hervé Barge, eHealth Agency, Luxembourg on benchmarking Hospital Information Systems

Liege Train StationThe next HIMSS event in Europe is HIMSS Liège, taking place in Belgium on March 28-29, 2017. HIMSS Liège is “the” Health IT event for the Benelux and Northern France. It brings together key European stakeholders and is organized in partnership with HIMSS Europe, the Liège University Hospital, and the University of Liège. A special visit of the Liège Teaching Hospital will complete the conference program, whose sessions will be held in English, Dutch, and French. The photo on the left is the modern  train station of Liège.

But first, for those who may not know HIMSS, the organization is headquartered in Chicago, and  is a global not for profit dedicated to « the advancement of healthcare through the best use of health information technologies. » HIMSS has 64,000 individual members, 640+ corporate members, and over 225 not-for-profit organizations. HIMSS17, this year’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, was attended by over 42 000 participants between February 19 and 23.

I was delighted to realize this exclusive interview with  Hervé Barge, the Managing Director of the Luxembourg eHealth Agency. The Luxembourg agency’s mission, like that of other national  eHealth agencies around the world, is to ensure better coordination of patient care, thanks to a data exchange platform and an IT plan.

Denise Silber:  Hervé, can you tell us about the program at HIMSS Liège?

HB: The key interest of HIMSS Liège is the unique opportunity it provides for participants to share their experience. A Chief Information Officer can think that her system is good, but the only way to improve it is through international benchmarking on an identical scoring system. This is the purpose of the HIMSS audit or evaluation method, and the Liège conference is the place for peers to discuss their evaluations.

At our national eHealth agency, we are interested in how HIMSS evaluates the maturity of hospital information systems, and the “the continuity of care model” is the main theme of HIMSS Liège.  We see the conference as a way to help us improve our competencies, thanks to the knowledge we will get about the hospitals that have already started benchmarking themselves.

Historically, hospitals did self-declarations, because we really did not have any recognized indicators. Now that we can do a proper benchmarking, we know which hospitals have reached levels 6 and 7 (Level 7 so far has not been achieved in Europe). So their experience can serve as a model.

DS: In 2016, Europe adopted the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation. This complements the benchmarking process. Can you tell us about that?

HB:  Each European citizen has the right to transfer his or her data among the 28 member states of the European Union. This “portability” requires an identical data management system in all the countries. By adopting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU is reinforcing identical data management in Europe. The GDPR facilitates data portability, because we must have interoperability in order to comply with GDPR. And in order to be truly interoperable, all the health information systems must have achieved the same level of quality. Each national system must be evaluated at the European level, and not just nationally.

DS: And the subject of European benchmarking brings us back to the interest of the HIMSS evaluation tools…

HB: Yes, at the present time, the not-for-profit organisation HIMSS, with the HIMSS Analytics department, makes available the only international benchmarking tool. It is really critical for us to be able to compare the best hospitals in Europe, to those in the US or in Australia, or wherever they may be. Creating a benchmarking tool from scratch is a very long and costly process, and if we did develop a tool for Europe, that would be a mistake, because we would not be able to compare ourselves to other regions!

DS: Who will attend HIMSS Liège?

HB: All of the hospital functions will be represented: healthcare professionals, general management, finance, and as well HCP in private practice, government policy people, and of course, tech providers.

DS: What do you think of the progress to-date regarding the quality of hospital information systems in Europe?

HB: There’s been significant progress. Several hospitals have been evaluated in both Luxembourg and France and everyone wants to continue to improve their information systems. But, as long as “avoidable deaths” can be counted in the thousands, there is still a lot of progress to be done! If we improve our information systems, we have a direct impact on quality. We must do all we can to reach Level 7, a paperless hospital.

Let me mention a personal anecdote. I broke my left clavicle recently and my doctor hand wrote the prescription for the x-ray. When I handed over the prescription at the hospital, I was scheduled to have an xray of the left…ankle! (In French the two words are close and ankle x rays are more frequent.)

DS: Yes, handwritten prescriptions require special attention.

HB: We can gain in efficiency, even if “zero risk” is a myth. But in order to reduce our errors, we need to audit the situation and find out exactly what we must improve. That’s the only way!

Denise Silber

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