Geneva, Switzerland, is set to play host to what organisers believe will be a ground-breaking conference and exhibition uniting the healthcare IT community across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
It's a lofty ambition, but The World of Health IT Conference & Exhibition, which runs from 10-13 October at Geneva Palexpo, is being billed as 'a new solution-targeted concept designed to bridge the gaps between public policy and the realities of day-to-day implementation'.
Among the attractions will be symposia, educational sessions with expert speakers and 'thought leaders', e-sessions, networking events and a cutting-edge exhibition featuring many outstanding high-profile names, from Cisco to Eastman Kodak, through Microsoft and Siemens.
The organising team (including the World Health Organisation, HIMSS, EuroRec and the European Health Telematics Association) say the marketplace across EMEA consists of a multitude of stakeholders who all act in parallel but lack a single forum specifically geared to seeking joint solutions. The raison dâetre, therefore, of the conference and exhibition is to draw them together, for the first time in the region, all under one roof. There, the logic runs, they will have the best of all chances to work on fact-based solutions.
What looks like giving this event the edge over other conferences is that the whole concept has been designed for and by the regionâs healthcare IT community â that's the buyers, the vendors, the technology users, the providers and the healthcare regulators.
Jean Claude Healy, a director of the World Health Organization, sums up the conference's aims and objectives: "We are firmly of the opinion that only practitioners in healthcare IT can tackle the industry's issues head on.
"And, as a true practitioner-orientated conference rather than a mere 'talking shop', this event takes on board that the community's core â and most pressing - challenge is to secure return on investment amid seismic organisational and infrastructure change."
"We fundamentally believe," Mr Healy added, âthat investments in information technology are key in ensuring successful delivery of healthcare, now and in the future. The conference, we're convinced, will cast this into sharp relief and get us closer to resolving the issues"
The event certainly has heavyweight backing in the commercial sector too: among the leading sponsors are Accenture and Oracle, with corporate sponsors InterSystems, Philips and Sun also stepping up to the plate.
Meanwhile, the European Union has answered the call, with European Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding - a doctor of human sciences at the Sorbonne in a previous life - expected to deliver the keynote opening address.
Other leading figures present will include, for example, Kuwait's Health Minister, Sheik Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who will be leading a session focusing on health ministry perspectives from Africa and the Middle East.
And Member of the European Parliament Baroness Emma Nicholson has put her vast experience and support fully behind the event. The Baroness will deliver a speech on the subject of the Parliament's role in improving quality, safety and delivery of healthcare to European citizens.
Full and free access to information
The MEP, clearly warming to her upcoming task, told this journal: âMy hope is that this conference will place eHealth fairly and squarely at the centre of the international agenda. It is time that it was realised how important it is to give people full and free access to health information and, in my view, to preventative health care.
"We're moving away from the era whereby the doctors' owned the knowledge that they had struggled hard to acquire and gave out in a paternalist manner that the patients received gratefully.
That attitude was valid while it lasted, but now we're in an era where information can be obtained about everything, so we want to empower people so that they can take maximum care of their own health. eHealth - this is the way forward."
The Baroness added: "I want this conference to put on the agenda not just health but poverty reduction, empowerment of populations, livelihoods and job opportunities, and the health of the globe."
Challenges and solutions
To help realise such high ambitions WHIT has put together what should be very useful satellite symposia placed at the heart of the conference agenda. These are aimed specifically at healthcare IT leaders, physicians, nursing informatics and other international eHealth professionals â giving all participants a platform to exchange experiences, discuss challenges and find solutions for improving the quality of patient care.
At each symposium, speakers will share their insights into emerging eHealth trends using case studies to illustrate challenges in different regions and settings. For example, the Leadership Symposium â titled 'Towards a Citizen-Centred Delivery World' â will be geared towards leading organisational readiness and change, technology adoption and integration of IT into the healthcare setting.
The Physicians' Symposium, meanwhile, will look to address how medical professionals can improve patient safety and quality of care by implementing IT solutions in healthcare practices. Dr. Lucian Leape, Adjunct Professor of Health Policy, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, will speak about the impact of changing IT on patient safety and quality of care.
And the Nursing Informatics Symposium, entitled Quality Frameworks for Enhanced Care and Empowered Nurses, aims to provide opportunities for nurse practitioners, clinicians and managers to gain fresh insights into healthcare IT innovations, the impact of technology on the nursing profession and the future role of nurses in patient care.
Of course, it won't all be work, work, work. The State of Geneva is sponsoring a cheese-and-wine opening reception to launch the four-day event. This will provide a chance to meet and chat informally with attendees and industry leaders over a drink.
As a bonus, there's also a special networking reception towards the end of the agenda to encourage everyone to share their conference experiences. Music, cocktails and hors dâoeuvres should add a relaxed air to what looks like being an invaluable networking opportunity.
As Baroness Nicholson says of the whole event concept: "It has got a lot going for it."
Well, it certainly looks to be in good healthâ¦
Register for the event at www.worldofhealthit.org where the full programme and further information can be found.
Pull out box
Pictures of an Exhibition
With healthcare IT expected to account for around 5% of EU Member States healthcare budget by 2010, many hospital managers feel that a mature software market is needed and that the pace of technological change needs to quicken.
There's also feeling that industry could try harder to understand usersâ requirements before developing new products while the vendors, of course, are itching to share new solutions and get as much feedback as possible on future innovations.
The organisers say that the exhibition in Geneva is designed to help bridge these gaps. Geared to demonstrating new strategies, tools and technology, it will give users the opportunity to experience best practices and solutions, while letting them engage in what should be highly informative dialogue with market suppliers.
The first such exhibition of its kind to cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it has attracted a host of top names. These include Accenture, Agfa-Gevaert, Custodix, InterSystems, Microsoft, Orion Health, Philips, Quovadx and Siemens but there are many others. The full list is available at www.worldofhealthit.org.
Related news articles: