HIMSS and WHO-Europe have set a new agenda of transatlantic collaboration in digital health, recently signing a memorandum of understanding marking it.
HIMSS aims to help lead the reform of the global health ecosystem through information and technology. With a membership of more than 120,000, HIMSS serves the world’s health communities through its operations across North America, Europe, United Kingdom, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
The 53 member states of the World Health Organization’s European Region recently approved a Resolution and Action Plan to scale up digital transformation for better health. A leading healthcare advocate, HIMSS has extensive experience in the area, and has said it stands ready to help.
In advance of Global Health Equity Week, October 24-28, 2022, Healthcare IT News sat down with Tom Leary, senior vice president and head of government relations at HIMSS, to discuss the memorandum of understanding between HIMSS and WHO-Europe and what the organizations will be doing to advance digital health in Europe.
Q. What initially drew HIMSS and WHO-Europe together?
A. HIMSS has had a great relationship with WHO-Europe going back for the last three or four years. They’ve been associated with our HIMSS Europe conference, pre-pandemic and during the pandemic.
They’re great visionaries for what can be in the European region. Their regional director is Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge. From the regional director on down to the whole team, it’s a great partnership opportunity to bring real-world solutions to the entire European region. That’s what drew HIMSS to the memorandum of understanding.
“The intention is to bring the public and private sectors together to help identify what steps need to be taken in each country.”
Tom Leary, HIMSS
Q. What does the memorandum of understanding between the two organizations spell out?
A. It’s really the baseline memorandum of understanding between the two organizations. We are a recognized partner with the WHO and WHO-Europe. We’ve gone through legal review, and it’s set us up with a good foundation from which to really start to think creatively around bringing digital health transformation for the entire European region.
So it’s a baseline MOU from which we will be launching a transatlantic health coalition later this year and into 2023 with the intention to work together in the public and private sectors to help the countries in the European region assess where they are on their digital health transformation.
Many people think of the European community as just the E.U., but there are twice as many countries in the WHO European region as there are in the European Union. And many of those countries that are not part of the European Union are earlier on in their digital health transformation.
They’ve got smaller economies and have a longer journey to go before they are, quote-unquote, paperless and truly transformed in the definition of digital health transformation. So the intention is to bring the public and private sectors together to help identify what steps need to be taken in each country.
And then, overall in the region, what resources are available from a private sector, what guidance, whether it’s looking at 3G as a baseline for resources, not going all the way to 5G, because there are countries that just don’t have that physical infrastructure? So building from a 3G perspective, identifying do they need EHRs? Do they need to be rolled out?
How do we leverage resources to help them understand where they are, what the gaps are between their vision and what’s currently happening in each of the countries? And then what resources can be brought to bear both in the public sector and the private sector; that is really the hope for this partnership.
Q. What are the goals the two organizations have in their work together?
A. Our goal is to underscore the need for the public and private sectors to work together to offer the vision of digital health transformation within the region, both from a technology perspective and just as important from a workforce perspective.
There are gaps in the workforce, in the number of people who are either trained or even aware of digital health careers. So, how do we make sure there is career opportunity, growth opportunity? You know, career growth opportunities for individuals who may be curious about technology, but don’t realize there’s a whole world and whole career path out there in the healthcare space.
Whether it’s cybersecurity professionals or IT engineers, you know, fill in the blank from the technology side. They don’t always think of healthcare as a place from which they can launch their career. They can really make a difference in their community, but once you’re able to highlight that, then give them a path to certifications, or what HIMSS can bring to the table in certification and education.
And what the partners might be able to bring to the table. I think of, for example, Microsoft and organizations like that being able to focus on the technology needs. But, just as important, having the ability to deliver on this digital health transformation. You could have a plan all you want. You can purchase the technology. But if you don’t have the people who understand and can implement a technology, then you’re really missing out.
So that’s why it’s really a public-private partnership focused on both the digital health-technology transformation, as well as the workforce.
Q. What are some of the activities the organizations will undertake to achieve these goals? For example, events, research, HIMSS membership drives, etc.
A. We’re in the early stages of mapping out our path forward for 2023. We’ll be having a series of in-person and virtual meetings to map out our plan for engaging. I anticipate having conversations with the public sector in the European region, as well as private-sector partners from across the HIMSS membership – you know, those that exhibit at HIMSS Global Conference and the European Conference – some of the great organizations out there that have other relationships with the healthcare community.
So, I really anticipate getting our foundation built. We’ve got the memorandum of understanding in place. Now let’s start building the house. We will start to map out where we’re headed and map out some of the milestones around education opportunities and engagement with both the countries and potential private-sector partners.
Q. Ultimately, how will this partnership forward HIMSS’s mission, which is to reform the global health ecosystem through the power of information and technology?
A. I appreciate this question, because it’s between that mission and the organizational vision where this partnership is intended to address. It’s bringing together the public sector and the private sector within the European region to identify the job opportunities and overcome the challenges in delivering on true digital healthcare.
And so what we’re hoping is this partnership as a result of the MOU will help countries and ultimately help individuals in those countries to leverage technology in a way that makes care more accessible, the communities healthier, and really make the opportunities for both the individuals and the organizations to be upfront and achievable. We anticipate that it will deliver on all aspects of the HIMSS mission.