Biomedical Informatics' Global Reach

by Paul R. DeMuro

September, 2015

One need only spend a few days at an international meeting of biomedical informaticians, physicians, and other scientists to realize quite quickly that many countries across the globe are experiencing many of the same issues in their healthcare systems as we are in the United States. Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting on a panel on "E-Health's Global Reach in the Quest for Increased Quality of Care: New Developments, Key Considerations and Consumer Health Informatics" at MedInfo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Other members of my panel were from academic institutions and/or healthcare systems in Argentina, Chile, Minnesota, and Norway.

It seemed as if many countries across the world are experiencing the financial and other stresses of trying to provide healthcare to an increasing number of individuals in a more cost-effective manner with greater quality. In addition, it is surprising how many other countries' health systems pay providers on a fee-for-service or modified fee-for-service basis with little regard to quality. Increasingly, there is as here, a recognition that these situations are not sustainable and payments should be based on quality and cost-effectiveness—thus, payments for value.

Many of the meetings focused on E-Health, the theme for the conference, and how E-Health might facilitate the transformation of healthcare systems across the world. Telemedicine or telehealth was discussed extensively, not only as a means to provide care to those in remote areas, but also to make access available to more individuals wherever they might be located and at a cost often significantly less expensive than that would be incurred for a face-to-face encounter with a clinician. Not surprisingly, it seems as if much of telehealth is moving to smart phones, a far cry from the days of 30 or so years ago, when telehealth often meant a physician being in one location with a television monitor and a patient in another location with a different monitor.

There also was interest across the world in the use of social media for healthcare purposes, along with mHealth and its many applications. In fact, one attendee commented that the health and fitness applications must be running into the hundreds of thousands by now, and keeping up with them would be impossible.

Much focus was on data analytics, big data, personalized and precision medicine, and predictive analytics. Discussions were plentiful on how principles of biomedical informatics and evidence-based medicine might be better applied in the context of enabling health information technologies to provide not only better quality care, but also in a more cost-effective manner, at a time when the costs of pharmaceuticals to treat such diseases as cancer are skyrocketing, patient conditions are becoming increasingly complex with more comorbidities, and individuals with chronic conditions that need to be managed are increasing dramatically.

Now is an exciting time in healthcare around the world and certainly in the areas of data analytics and biomedical informatics as the healthcare industry seeks to find more and more highly trained individuals to help address the increasingly complex healthcare issues around the globe. Whether one lives in the great Pacific Northwest or 3,000 or so miles away in South Florida, we all can benefit from advancements in medicine and science across the world and for the scientific exchanges that occur at meetings such as MedInfo. I am privileged and honored to have been invited to present at these very important meetings and to have the support of my law firm, Broad and Cassel, to be able to do so.

One can find oneself quickly being brought back down to earth, from all the excitement and professional enrichment that comes with such proceedings, however, and life's realities when seminal events occur in one's family. This past week such a seminal event occurred in our family with the passing of our long-time family pet, Pedrick, the pug. Pedrick grew up with three little girls who were in primary school, high school, and then some in college. Such life events make one reflect on the exceptional nature of international scientific meetings.

Although such meetings help us to learn about and share scientific and business advances in healthcare and facilitate healthcare systems around the world being able to provide better quality in a more cost-effective way to more people, we cannot lose sight of the fact that a healthcare system touches everyone in some way. Everyone is a father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister to another. The passing of my dear friend, Pedrick, only reemphasizes why we in healthcare do what we do on an everyday basis. We want to make a difference in the lives of others. Enabling health information technologies coupled with data analytics and biomedical informatics facilitate our doing so.

Please click here to view the article as published by The Lund Report.