Collaborating for a better future for New Zealand’s medical system
Health data has always been challenging to access and share securely, but after a non-traditional collaboration of multiple entities coming together to create a New Zealand healthcare solution platform, getting secure access is no longer the challenge it once was.
As of March 2022, six partner companies are now live and testing their applications with general practices using Medtech’s new ALEX (Application Layer EXchange) platform. The platform allows secure integration of partner apps into larger patient management systems, creating the patient driven consent and controls needed to protect personal data. Read on to find out how this New Zealand-led technology is set to revolutionise patient care while letting doctors get back to what they do best.
When it comes to data management, the world of healthcare IT has been a fortress of walled gardens, fiercely guarded by compliance, security and confidentiality considerations.
Fortunately, the future of healthcare looks forward to the timely and secure exchange of health data between patients, physicians and other healthcare practitioners. Thanks to a unique collaboration of New Zealand’s smartest minds, the future is materialising before our eyes with the genesis of ALEX (Application Layer EXchange), a world-first in healthcare interoperability.
Umbrellar, Medtech, Microsoft, CodeHQ and Odin Health have come together to create a New Zealand healthcare solution platform, ALEX, a world-first in interoperability. ALEX is on a mission to save lives by empowering doctors to focus on diagnosing and managing their patients by providing timely access to an accurate patient clinical summary, from the “single source of truth”, being the patient’s usual general practice.
Medtech is a leading health information technology company that has been enhancing the quality of patient care for over 30 years. They provide advanced practice management software to the healthcare industry enabling health professionals to deliver better to their patients. As the market leader for over 30 years, Medtech is perfectly positioned to become the intermediary between health data in the PMS and new software companies coming to the cloud. There is a large focus to modernise their product offering and improve the security and sharing information requirements of a modern PMS.
The main challenge in the healthcare system was around the secure and authorised access to patient clinical information at time of need
Health data has always been challenging to access and share securely. Its very nature presents a unique paradoxical challenge for healthcare practitioners. Given its sensitivity, it’s difficult to share as it needs a high level of privacy and security but these barriers to access can cause serious harm.
As a result, information is siloed in each practice, with micro pieces of data spread across all different healthcare institutions. To Medtech the diagnosis was clear. GPs needed an easy way to access and share patient information securely. The end game was to democratize access to GP data in a way that was controlled, secured and trusted.
Medtech’s vision is to build the most connected service for practices. To realise this vision they needed parts of their product to integrate with different platforms and software applications.
To do this, Medtech had two key challenges. The first was around creating a single point event to multiple practices. With over 860 GP practice servers running their software, the challenge was in taking hundreds of different things and connecting them into a single addressable API. The second challenge was around legacy. How do you then take those 860 servers designed with old-school technology and create a cloud based layer on top of a modern RESTful API?
Five parties, working together to deliver interoperability for better patient outcomes.
Umbrellar and Medtech fronted a non-traditional collaborative partnership approach, combining their strengths as New Zealand’s leading cloud provider with the likes of CodeHQ, Odin Health and Microsoft to develop ALEX, a world-first in interoperability.
ALEX transforms the doctor-patient relationship by allowing practices to share healthcare data and records securely with third-party applications like patient portals and appointment bookings, in a way that adheres to international data security standards.
In building a solution, Medtech wanted to build a platform for the cloud, in the cloud. One that was built on proven, trusted and compliant based technology. They also wanted to work with partners who were best in breed in engineering the underlying technology to make the platform. For these reasons, the Microsoft Azure platform was core to this service.
“Umbrellar is a specialist in Azure, and as a Microsoft Partner, take pride in working with partners. We knew we could serve Medtech from the Cloud infrastructure design of the Azure landing zone, and permutations of technical decisions and architectural guidance that they needed. But we realised we needed a group that could provide medical expertise and another that could provide integration specialist capability,” says Rob Farnell, Head of Cloud Technology at Umbrellar.
Thus the collaboration was born. Umbrellar acted as the bridge for Medtech, managing the various groups involved, which was an incredibly effective approach to the problem.
Knowing the theory of the cloud is potentially confusing for customers, Umbrellar was on board to guide and partner with Medtech through the complexities of the cloud in the early viability of the solution with the creation of an integration layer. This then became the conduit for medical practices and other partners to interact with Medtech’s systems and practices securely using FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), the international standard for the exchange of healthcare information.
Empowering healthcare professionals everywhere.
“5 million people will have a better quality of life because we’re making it easier for innovative solutions to get them access to better healthcare,” says Mark Smith, Chief Information Officer at Medtech.
The doctor-patient relationship has been transformed by providing access to a whole range of connected services in one place, while maintaining the trust in the doctor-patient relationship. A transformation that has reduced the administration involved in record-keeping, transfer of care and running the business, freeing GPs up to concentrate on delivering the best patient care.
Rob Farnell, Head of Cloud Technology at Umbrellar says, “The reality is that we’ve made the New Zealand medical space easier. Not only was it a great service to Medtech, but it’s been a great service to New Zealand. We’ve built a better competitive medical field in New Zealand.”
The platform sees the benefits of a non-traditional partnership come to life in full force with the alliance of Umbrellar, CodeHQ, Odin Health, Microsoft and Medtech, resulting in a meeting of brilliant minds to design a platform built and hosted in Microsoft Azure. It generated some fantastic results for Medtech, who saw so much attention from their partners that they had a backlog of six weeks worth of engagements to onboard them onto the system.
Medtech was blown away by the speed of the project, “Working on our own we’d have taken 18 months to develop the platform, but together with our partners, we’ve done it in less than six,” Dr Geoffrey Sayer Managing Director at Medtech says. “People said this sort of thing was three or four years away.”
ALEX can scale up to support as many practices and patients as needed, with the highest levels of security and permissions. It is already impacting lives in the NZ health sector for good, and Australia is next. Being built in the cloud, the platform is readily available to countries such as the UK and Ireland – and the first enquiries are already rolling in.
By opening up ALEX to third parties, the environment created encourages more innovation and allows nimble software companies to create niche solutions to help clinicians deliver new models of care. Solutions that are better suited to an ever-changing complex industry wrought with increasingly complex challenges.
“Our job is to deliver the tech for tomorrow’s world, but we don’t do it alone. We do it with the best partners across every part of the cloud,” says David Howden, CEO of Umbrellar. “What you see here is the outcome of four parties working together for the delivery of better patient outcomes. That’s how we should be getting technology into the hands of the right people.”
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