Prof. Dr. Reinhold Haux papers: A decade of ICT development in health care

April 20, 2008

Lately I’ve been reading some papers from Prof. Dr. Reinhold Haux. I’m really impressed with his career. In 1996 he published with other colleagues A systematic view on medical informatics:

Medical informatics is defined as the scientific discipline concerned with the systematic processing of data, information and knowledge in medicine and health care. The domain of medical informatics (including health informatics), its aim, methods and tools, and its relevance to other disciplines in medicine and health sciences are outlined. It is recognized that one of the major tasks of medical informatics is modelling processes. In this context, biological, communication, decision, engineering, educational, organizational and computational processes are distinguished and described.

One year later he wrote Aims and tasks of medical informatics:

Ten major long-term aims and tasks, so to speak ‘grand challenges’, for research in the field of medical informatics, including health informatics, are proposed and described. These are the further development of methods and tools of information processing for: (1) diagnostics (‘the visible body’); (2) therapy (‘medical intervention with as little strain on the patient as possible’); (3) therapy simulation; (4) early recognition and prevention; (5) compensating physical handicaps; (6) health consulting (‘the informed patient’); (7) health reporting; (8) health care information systems; (9) medical documentation and (10) comprehensive documentation of medical knowledge and knowledge-based decision support. Work is, in part, already in progress. To all these aims and tasks medical informatics can and maybe should make substantial contributions. Prior to outlining the above aims and tasks, an account is given of the meaning of medical informatics, of the objective it pursues in general and of its achievements so far. The present paper intends to contribute to a broad public discussion of the aims and tasks for research in the field of medical informatics.

In 2002, he lead the writing of Health care in the information society. A prognosis for the year 2013

Our society is increasingly influenced by modern information and communication technology (ICT). Health care has profited greatly by this development. How could health care provision look in the near future, in 10 years, or more precisely, in the year 2013? What measures must be undertaken by political and self-governing health institutions, and by medical informatics research, to ensure an efficient, medically advanced and yet affordable future health care system? Three factors will greatly influence the further development of information processing in health care within the near future: the development of the population, medical advances, and advances in informatics. These factors have motivated us to set up 30 theses for health care provision in the year 2013. The theses cover areas of health care, such as its people, its information systems, and its ICT tools. Three major goals requiring achievement have been identified: patient-centered recording and use of medical data for cooperative care, process-integrated decision support through current medical knowledge, comprehensive use of patient data for research and health care reporting. In consequence, political institutions should provide a framework for networked, patient-centered health care. They are called on to regulate the storage and exchange of health care data and of appropriate information system architectures. Finally, the health care institutions themselves must emphasize professional information management more strongly. Relevant research topics in medical informatics are: comprehensive electronic patient records, modern health information system architectures, architectures for medical knowledge centers, specific data processing methods (`medical data mining’), and multi-functional, mobile ICT tools.

This article promoted a interesting debate among other experts. In 2006 he wrote Individualization, globalization and health – about sustainable information technologies and the aim of medical informatics:

This paper discusses aspects of information technologies for health care, in particular on transinstitutional health information systems (HIS) and on health-enabling technologies, with some consequences for the aim of medical informatics. It is argued that with the extended range of health information systems and the perspective of having adequate transinstitutional HIS architectures, a substantial contribution can be made to better patient-centered care, with possibilities ranging from regional, national to even global care. It is also argued that in applying health-enabling technologies, using ubiquitous, pervasive computing environments and ambient intelligence approaches, we can expect that in addition care will become more specific and tailored for the individual, and that we can achieve better personalized care. In developing health care systems towards transinstitutional HIS and health-enabling technologies, the aim of medical informatics, to contribute to the progress of the sciences and to high-quality, efficient, and affordable health care that does justice to the individual and to society, may be extended to also contributing to self-determined and self-sufficient (autonomous) life. Reference is made and examples are given from the Yearbook of Medical Informatics of the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) and from the work of Professor Jochen Moehr.

This year he also published Health information systems – past, present, future

Summary In 1984, Peter Reichertz gave a lecture on the past, present and future of hospital information systems. In the meantime, there has been a tremendous progress in medicine as well as in informatics. One important benefit of this progress is that our life expectancy is nowadays significantly higher than it would have been even some few decades ago. This progress, leading to aging societies, is of influence to the organization of health care and to the future development of its information systems. Twenty years later, referring to Peter Reichertz’ lecture, but now considering health information systems (HIS), two questions are discussed: which were lines of development in health information systems from the past until today? What are consequences for health information systems in the future? The following lines of development for HIS were considered as important: (1) the shift from paper-based to computer-based processing and storage, as well as the increase of data in health care settings; (2) the shift from institution-centered departmental and, later, hospital information systems towards regional and global HIS; (3) the inclusion of patients and health consumers as HIS users, besides health care professionals and administrators; (4) the use of HIS data not only for patient care and administrative purposes, but also for health care planning as well as clinical and epidemiological research; (5) the shift from focusing mainly on technical HIS problems to those of change management as well as of strategic information management; (6) the shift from mainly alpha-numeric data in HIS to images and now also to data on the molecular level; (7) the steady increase of new technologies to be included, now starting to include ubiquitous computing environments and sensor-based technologies for health monitoring. As consequences for HIS in the future, first the need for institutional and (inter-) national HIS-strategies is seen, second the need to explore new (transinstitutional) HIS architectural styles, third the need for education in health informatics and/or biomedical informatics, including appropriate knowledge and skills on HIS. As these new HIS are urgently needed for reorganizing health care in an aging society, as last consequence the need for research around HIS is seen. Research should include the development and investigation of appropriate transinstitutional information system architectures, of adequate methods for strategic information management, of methods for modeling and evaluating HIS, the development and investigation of comprehensive electronic patient records, providing appropriate access for health care professionals as well as for patients, in the broad sense as described here, e.g. including home care and health monitoring facilities. Comparing the world in 1984 and in 2004, we have to recognize that we imperceptibly, stepwise arrived at a new world. HIS have become one of the most challenging and promising fields of research, education and practice for medical informatics, with significant benefits to medicine and health care in general.

All these articles show the development of ICT during last decade in health care systems.  It has to be remarked that there is a soft shift from determinism to a sociocultural understanding in the way technology is approached. This development also shows how health is taking advantage of the distinctive features of the ICT stated by Prof. Castells:

  • Their self-expanding processing and communicating capacity in terms of volume, complexity, and speed.
  • Their recombining ability on the basis of digitization and recurrent communication.
  • Their distributing flexibility through interactive, digitized networking.