Around the world developed and developing countries are using health information systems to improve the health of populations, the quality of healthcare, reduce medical error rates and improve access to health information and health services. Health information systems are becoming key to country delivery of healthcare and health services, and health informatics is now recognized as a separate and unique area of disciplinary study and professional practice in many countries throughout the world. Countries and governments are supporting the education of health informatics professionals and engaging researchers to promote the advancement and integration of health information systems into healthcare.
World wide governments and healthcare organizations are choosing to implement health information systems such as the following:
• Electronic Health Records
• Clinical Decision Support Systems
• Clinical Information Systems
• E-learning Systems
• Personal Health Records
• Systems that support Online communities
• Public Health Information Systems
• Telehealth and Tele Intensive Care Unit Systems
• Mobile Health Information Systems
Governments, regional health authorities and other healthcare organizations from around the world are also evaluating the clinical and cost effectiveness of these health information systems. The goals of this work have included improving the quality of healthcare while at the same time ensuring the effective use of scarce healthcare resources (i.e. human, monetary and technological) to ensure the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems. Researchers are designing and developing health information systems, conducting research, developing new methods for evaluating health information systems and moving the science of health informatics forward.
Globally, the situations of countries and regional health authorities are not unique. Many countries are addressing key issues at the intersection of technology and healthcare such as privacy, ethics, patient safety, efficiency and effectiveness. Researchers are studying these issues and developing solutions in conjunction with country, regional and local healthcare organizations. There are many lessons that have been learned and many more that will be learned in the coming years. Many health informatics issues are not unique to one country or one organization. Many of these issues are present throughout the world – in each country, involving differing healthcare delivery systems and differing types of health information systems. There is a need for researchers to exchange ideas within this global context and, learn from each other so that knowledge can be transferred and international solutions and best practices form the basis of health informatics work. The improvement of our healthcare systems using health information systems and technologies is dependent upon these international exchanges and solutions to address many of the real-world problems we encounter today and into in the future.
The Information Technology and Communications in Health (ITCH) conference was first held in 1987 to promote the global exchange of ideas in health informatics. The conference is hosted by the School of Health Information Science at the University of Victoria. The theme of the 2011 conference is Health Informatics: International Perspectives. The conference provided a unique opportunity to share lessons learned by both developed and developing countries. In addition this ITCH conference was special as it honoured Professor Denis Protti's leadership and contributions to the field of health informatics. Professor Denis Protti was the founding Director of the School of Health Information Science at the University of Victoria and has contributed his knowledge and expertise to guiding health informatics education, projects and initiatives in Canada and internationally.
It is hoped that the exchange of knowledge among the participants at ITCH 2011 will lead to increased dialogue and greater improvements to health information systems and technologies leading to more sustainable healthcare systems worldwide today and into the future.
School of Health Information Science
University of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia