conhIT: The future place to be for healthcare IT providers?

by Guido Gebhardt

From 2004 to 2007 VHitG (Verband der Hersteller von IT-Systemen im Gesundheitswesen) and Messe Frankfurt jointly organised ITeG (IT-Messe und Dialog im Gesundheitswesen). When VhitG moved the event to Berlin, this cooperation ended and Messe Berlin came on board as new partner for what is now called conhIT. The organisation team headed by Jens Naumann, VhitG chairman, developed an entirely new concept - which aims at making conhIT the prime congress venue for healthcare IT providers.

Photo: conhIT: The future place to be for healthcare IT providers?
Things, however, got off to a bad start. The lobby area emanated the charm of a train station. While at the German radiology congress, for example, the guests were greeted in the lobby of Messe Berlin with coffee to sweeten their start into a stressful congress day no such thing at conhIT. Nothing, not even a chair so sit down and wait for colleagues or business partners. “The place to be” felt more like “the place to flee”.
Unfortunately, it went from bad to worse. About half of the roughly 600 seats in the room where the opening session was scheduled remained empty. Plenty of space and time to speculate about the development of ITeG and conhIT. Was the move to Berlin, the decision for a new partner, really wise? The fact that many healthcare IT decision makers chose to stay home, however, is neither due to a poor event concept nor to the venue. Both Frankfurt (2004 to 2006) and Berlin (2007 and 2008) are easy to reach and IT is and will remain the key to success in hospital management.
At the opening session, Dr Klaus Theo Schröder, State Secretary with the German Federal Ministry of Health, announced the next roll-out phase for the electronic patient card. “In the second half of 2008 we want to deploy card readers as well as cards so we can realise the full potential of the system”, he underlined. Jens Naumann is also convinced that the IT infrastructure of the healthcare systems is a major success factor. “Consistent use of IT will allow us to cut the red tape surrounding work flows, reduce time to generate documentation and result in substantial efficiency gains and – above all – in improved medical care for the patients”, the VHitG chairman said. Estimates indicate that in Germany alone the costs for avoidable hospital stays might amount to 350 to 400 mio. Euro.
Raimund Hosch, CEO of Messe Berlin, emphasised the exchange character of the conhIT concept: Due to the timing of trade fair, congress and academy exhibitors as well as visitors are provided with the opportunity to collect and exchange information. conhIT, therefore, not only intends to become the prime e-health fair in Germany but also, as Hosch put it, “step by step an important event in Europe”.
The highlight of the opening session was no doubt keynote speaker Peter Waegemann, CEO of the Medical Records Institute in Boston, who demonstrated that even a rather unsexy issue such as the e-health card can be presented with wit and verve. In the US, Waegemann explains, electronic patient files on the cell phone or as xml file, telemedical therapies or computer-assisted medicine are no longer visions, they are reality. And he recommends, “the major goal has to be the introduction of computer-controlled therapy support.” A physician can no longer exclusively rely on what he or she learnt in medical school and what experience has taught. New medical knowledge is permanently springing from a wide variety of information sources: “We have to move away from intuitive treatment to healthcare which is science-and computer-based”, Waegemann urges. In an e-healthcare system physicians and nursing staff, no matter whether they are located in Bavaria or Iowa, will have access to patient data. Today, this is impossible because we are dealing with data silos that are not networked. “We have to ensure treatment continuity by offering the electronic patient file.” In the US, a data standard has already been introduced: Continuity of Care Record (CCR). It provides encrypted data sets in xml which contain data on previous therapies, medication and even a list of physicians the patient has seen so far. The patient can call up his CCR data sets per cell phone and forward them to a physician. “Sooner or later, we will all have a digital patient companion”, Waegemann concluded.
Both in terms of issues and content, conhIT 2008 was on a high level. Why then the lack of acceptance by the healthcare IT professionals? Since neither the venue nor the organisers seems to be the problem, VhitG might want to reconsider the dates. In Germany, a major portion of healthcare IT investments currently go into radiology. In March, ECR (European Congress of Radiology) in Vienna is on the agenda, followed in early May – at ICC Berlin – by the German radiology congress (DRK). The third event takes place only four weeks later, again in Berlin, the so-called Hauptstadtkongress. In 2007, there was also CARS (Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery) which means within a few weeks five congresses on healthcare IT were scheduled. And even if focus and details of the events are different – the targeted users are always identical.


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