Health + Tech | 30 years of change - Jamaica ahead of the field in many areas of healthcare advancement and technology
Two weeks ago, my company, Advanced Integrated Systems, participated in the 16th annual Caribbean Neurosciences Symposium in Montego Bay, St James.
I was happy to be a part of this event, given its history of facilitating inventiveness and new methods of operation. It also helped that it was led by the always-forward-thinking Dr Carl Bruce and cosigned by the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The state of emergency in the parish did not deter attendance as participants hailed from all over the world and gathered at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
I was happy that we could showcase so much of Jamaica's achievements in the area of medicine and healthcare. It was again clear - like I note at every international gathering of this type in which I have participated - that Jamaica is way ahead of the field in many areas of healthcare advancement and technology.
There was no disappointment at this year's event, especially since there was a marked emphasis on the use of technology in the field of medicine.
The fact is that the world is changing and technology is being applied to almost every area of life in very positive ways. Healthcare is no different. Things we could not do even 10 years ago are now possible because of technology. Countless lives have been saved because of technology.
I am happy that the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has become the poster child of hospital digitisation in the Caribbean. This is indeed a dream come true.
Years ago, I envisioned Jamaica as being among the first countries in the world - not just the Caribbean - to fully apply technology to healthcare. We started with online, real-time adjudication of health insurance claims, which became a major success as it immediately improved efficiency and resulted in cost savings for all parties involved.
UHWI FIRST TO BE FULLY DIGITISED
We then moved to acquiring the Hospital Information Management System with our partners in India. The system has seen major success in that country with nearly 200 hospitals digitised. The UHWI will be the first in the Caribbean to be fully digitised.
I am particularly proud of this and the fact that Jamaica is again taking the lead in the Caribbean.
For me, this development has been 30 years in the making as my company celebrates that many years of "putting the pieces together" in Jamaica.
This has taken on even greater significance today as we move towards complete digitisation of healthcare. My vision is to see a digitised network that encapsulates public and private hospitals, health centres, private medical practices, diagnostic centres, dental, optical, and all the related healthcare services.
A fully implemented electronic medical record (EMR) for the country would see tremendous gains in health and productivity, and the Government and practitioners can look forward to greater efficiency and reduced business costs.
There is no reason that this cannot happen in the near future. We have all the elements here already, and now I am happy that the will also exists with the Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton recently repeating his commitment to implement EMR and modernising the public health sector.
Although we have been slow in adopting the technology, I feel vindicated for where we are now, versus in the early years when I started to put forward what seemed like grand ideas at the time and was told that there was no way Jamaica would get there.
Well, we are a country that has continued to prove naysayers wrong, and we have again. I consider myself lucky to be able to sit and reflect on 30 years of our technological development and marvel at how far we have come.
It is not lost on me, however, that we are far from our true potential, but I am confident that it will not take another 30 years for us to get there as we are already moving in the right direction and the requisite elements are intercepting, as they should.
I thank everyone who has contributed to our development and also thank my staff for believing and working with me towards this goal.
- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems.