Saving lives: the role of health information exchange

Founded in 2018 by six of South Africa’s leading hospital groups and medical scheme administrators, CareConnect Health Information Exchange (HIE) is designed to help make a meaningful difference in healthcare outcomes. It is built on the advanced InterSystems HealthShare interoperability platform used by healthcare organizations worldwide to facilitate the efficient, safe and reliable sharing of patient information.

But why is such an exchange so important?

Healthcare providers around the world are struggling to balance spiraling costs with delivering consistent, high-quality patient outcomes. Fortunately, the growing adoption of technological solutions in the sector has seen the development of health information exchange in the United States, throughout Europe and now, with CareConnect, in Africa.

At the heart of these exchanges is the concept of unified care. This allows providers to securely integrate patient care records with patient indexes while protecting personal data. By doing so, the sector can gather data to provide analytics and improve a country’s healthcare environment. One need only look to the United States, arguably the most mature HIE market in the world, for vital information on CareConnect’s trajectory in South Africa.

Targeted debuts

Healthcare stakeholders want to be part of an HIE, but tend to see things from their perspective when it comes to data ownership. As more players begin to get involved, a tipping point occurs when data begins to live in the exchange to create a strategic asset that all can use.

Of course, the huge amount of data sources in healthcare adds complexity, especially when it comes to trying to unify everything. Using advanced technologies like the InterSystems HealthShare platform, this integration is a springboard to strategic value creation. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a clear use case for the benefits of hospitals, clinics, and other service providers having access to a centralized data resource containing patient information. But there are others. Just consider the positive impact an HIE can have on the delivery of care in the event of a natural disaster like a flood.

Although still in its infancy, CareConnect can serve as a catalyst to support innovative programs that improve healthcare in public and private spaces. An additional added value of an HIE is that it can start small but grow quickly to offer a unified care program.


Comprised of two modules, HealthShare Unified Care Record and HealthShare Patient Index, the InterSystems platform brings together the information that matters. It connects providers, patients, and payers through a unified care record that provides comprehensive analytics across the entire healthcare value chain.

Before one can even consider deploying an HIE, one needs to tackle the elephant in the room – complying with global and national privacy and data security standards and certifications. The InterSystems platform is standard by design. It provides integration and interoperability of health apps and data with a commitment to privacy and consent standards such as HIPPA (US), GDPR (Europe and UK) and POPIA (South Africa) ), while also using FHIR, HL7, IHE and other global healthcare information protocols and messaging formats. This means that patient data is always protected.

Relevant information

Only when a health system’s data is aligned can it perform analytics to inform stronger decision-making. CareConnect creates the impetus to do so in SA. Traditionally, healthcare systems have faced significant issues with latency and data duplication. Yes, companies have invested in everything from data warehouses to dashboards and predictive models, but as these tools are limited by scalability, integration and workflow challenges, clinical data, claims and others remain closed.

The ability to see, in real time, a patient’s history and care regimen, regardless of the service provider used, might therefore sound like science fiction. And yet, that’s exactly what an HIE like CareConnect will do, resulting in better decision-making and lower costs while improving patient care. Imagine the possibilities for clinical departments across the country. The interoperable environment provided by CareConnect and InterSystems allows specialists to identify previously hidden correlations leading to better patient outcomes.

patient centered

In all of this, the patient must remain at the forefront. The HIE lives and dies by its effectiveness in bridging the data integration gap with analysis that brings relevant insights that can save lives, improve care and keep costs as affordable as possible.

Using an HIE to identify at-risk patients using an interoperable platform ensures that clinical data can be gathered from any number of sources. For example, a provider can discover a diabetic patient who is late for an eye exam, which facilitates early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness. Think of the hub as connecting all data in partnership with healthcare organizations to develop insights that can be broadly applied to all patients in the ecosystem. This means that a process that started with one patient can provide patient-focused information that can apply to everyone using health care in the country.

CareConnect is the future of quality healthcare. The journey has begun, and we are thrilled to be part of it.

Comments are closed.