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Kevin Dean Discusses Thought Leadership in European and Middle Eastern Public Healthcare Networking

July 29, 2004

At the beginning of the year, two new books were published on the evolution of networked technologies in different public sector environments.

Connected Cities (Cisco Systems®, ISBN 0-9546445-1-4, £9.99 or €14), looked at the city as the new connected republic of the 21st Century and was edited by Simon Willis, director of the European Public Sector team of the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG).

IBSG helps organizations maximize their technology investments and hone their business processes to increase productivity, reduce costs and create new revenue streams.

Willis's book featured essays from 'urban innovators' leading the process of connectivity in a selection of networked cities around the world: Dubai, Barcelona, New York, Stockholm, Milan, Wroclaw in Poland, Manchester, Hamburg and the London borough of Hillingdon.

The second book, Connected Health (also in the Thought Leaders series published by Cisco, ISBN 0-9546445-0-6, priced £9.99 or €14), was edited by Willis's colleague Kevin Dean, director of the European Public Sector Healthcare Team in IBSG.

Concentrating on case studies from Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), it focused on how the Internet and other communications technologies are changing the provision of patient care in public health services.

The volume includes essays from Bob Gann, director of NHS Direct Online in England; Dr Henri-Arnaud Hansske, chief information officer of Centre Hospitalier d'Arras, France; and Walter Bergamaschi, director of the Ministry of Health Information Systems in Italy, among others.

News@Cisco caught up with Dean to discuss some of the issues and messages coming out of the book.

Why is it the right time now to publish a book on connected public health?

Kevin Dean: Health is at the top of most government agendas and it makes sense to talk about this topic now for a number of reasons:

  • The cost of public healthcare is accelerating owing to an ageing population; medical capabilities and treatments that get better and more expensive all the time; government imperatives to improve quality and access to care; and structural issues like the expansion of the European Union to include 10 new countries. This causes huge issues around the management of care for increasingly mobile citizens.
  • IT in public health has often been a 'Cinderella' subject. Public healthcare IT budgets always get raided first in times of trouble, but now, as in other industries, technology is leading the way in improving productivity. Not only that, but the experience that citizens or patients get from IT in other areas, such as banking, is increasing their expectations of service in health.
  • The model of care itself is changing from organization or institution-centric to patient-centric, dealing with people as customers and individuals. Given the scale of most public health services, this change can only be brought about with help from technology.

While almost every country has some idea on expanding its use of IT in public healthcare, whether locally, regionally or nationally, very little best-practice sharing happens - which is why it made sense to bring together a number of case histories in a single book.

What do the experiences collected in your book tell us about the state of technology deployment in the public healthcare sector in EMEA - and potential future trends?

Kevin Dean: We have tried to cover a broad subject through examples drawn from all areas.

We have included citizen and patient access to information; the challenges of privacy and confidentiality; traditional hospitals adopting IT in France; and innovative new hospitals such as Modena.

We have also looked at regional and national strategies to effect change in huge populations and public healthcare organizations, but with different political, managerial and economic situations in Italy, Germany and the UK, and future trends of pan-European cooperation.

The bottom line is that this is a hot subject; more sharing and coordination is vital to the long term success of public healthcare.

What messages would you have for would-be public healthcare innovators?

Kevin Dean: The main lessons would be:

  • Do not try to invent new approaches - there are lots of good examples to learn from.
  • Do not treat public health IT as a stand-alone subject - it is core to how you deliver care, especially as citizens become more mobile and care itself is delivered across geographic and organizational boundaries.
  • Concentrate on a strong business case - built around quality, access and cost benefits.

What were the most striking examples of public healthcare technology use that you came across researching your book?

Kevin Dean: The UK National Program, which is changing the face of public healthcare delivery, supported by IT, to a rapid timetable, was the most ambitious; Modena, which is aiming to become a paperless hospital, represented the most futuristic vision.

How is Cisco IBSG in EMEA supporting the development of connected public health?

Kevin Dean: Cisco is supporting public healthcare organizations in many countries as follows:

  • Sharing best practice and experience both within countries and across borders.
  • Working with bodies such as the World Health Organization to help drive high-impact projects such as the Health Academy.
  • Creating and joining industry forums to raise the profile and importance of e-health.

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