What's in it for us?

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Last week I was in India for a few days. It may sound strange: working to improve information systems in health care in the Netherlands and then travelling so far. Yet it is not that crazy. We were there because we became a member of the "Global Digital Health Partnership". A group of governments from all over the world, started by Australia, who together take actions to improve health care. We were mainly focused on two topics: information security and standards for (interoperability of) data exchange in healthcare.

Both topics have one thing in common: they do not stop at national borders and cooperating does help. Information security is a good example of this. Cyberattacks at ICT systems in health care institutions are everywhere. Think of the computer virus that hit the NHS in England last year. Because England wakes up earlier than the United States, the British were able to find out in time what was happening and warn the Americans. Sharing this kind of information really makes sense. That is what we are going to do with a number of countries. Countries in all kinds of time zones, so that we can really help each other.

When it comes to standards for exchange of information, the same is actually the case. Many vendors in healthcare sell their systems worldwide. The data in these systems is often not easily available to exchange. This must change, because information exchange is needed for good quality healthcare. It helps if a group of countries together demands the same set of standards from industry. This accelerates these standards being built in to their systems. So demanding interoperability is what we're going to do. By doing so, Dutch healthcare also benefits.

That is why international collaboration is not that stupid. It has clear benefits for healthcare in the Netherlands and each of the countries of the GDHP. Because that's what it’s in the end all about: improving health IT to enable the right care in the right place at the right moment.