The following is a speech by Acting Secretary for Health and Welfare, Mr Gregory Leung, at the Opening Ceremony of Asia Pacific Medical Informatics Conference 2000 today (September 28):
Professor Hedley, Dr Cesnik, Dr Abu Baker, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to officiate at this Opening Ceremony of the Asia Pacific Medical Informatics Conference and address such a distinguished audience. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to our distinguished guests and all participants to this Conference.
The 21st Century is the age of information technology. With the rapid development of information technology, medical informatics has flourished, presenting ample opportunities as well as challenges for health care professionals in the provision of quality health care.
When the bulk of direct patient care is still being carried out by clinicians using pen and paper, which has worked remarkably well for generations, one may ask why we need medical informatics. My short answer is - medical informatics offers us the future, or is itself the future.
Medical informatics contributes to the development of health care in many different ways. Advanced application of medical informatics technology has revolutionized, in some cases, long-held clinical practice. The development of imaging technologies is a very good example. Preoperative planning with the use of a computer including realistic prediction of the outcome has become an integral part of intervention in certain disciplines, such as radiotherapy and neurosurgery.
The use of medical informatics has also helped coordinate and manage patient data more efficiently through electronic means. The development of shared health information systems and technology infrastructures in networking and patient databases has and will improve the quality of patient care. It is technologically feasible to assemble the electronic patient data of the same patient stored in different systems, allowing clinicians to have an integrated view of a patient's life-long medical records at the point of care. Enabling patients to have access to their medical records by way of internet or the adoption of smart cards, or both, is becoming an irresistible trend.
Information technology has opened up new avenues for the education of health care professionals, patients and the general public. Virtual reality technology offers a unique opportunity for the training of professional surgical skills on a wide scale and in a repeatable manner. Electronic journals and books, manuals of operation and protocol for studies could be made available for free and speedily on the Internet. Patient education and support activities can now be carried out on the Internet and related technologies through web portals, electronic mails, newsletters, interactive discussion groups, virtual patients and virtual classrooms.
Apart from improving the provision of health care, information technology has facilitated the effective and systematic collection, process and dissemination of health information which provides a rich source of information for health policy formulation and programme planning. The additional data available will help make our policy formulation process more and more evidence-based.
I would like to thank the organizers for arranging this Conference on "IT and Health in the 21st Century" which provides an ideal forum for experts and professionals to share experience and exchange ideas. I am sure all participants will be able to gain further insights in innovative applications of information technology in health care through the synergy generated by this Conference.
Lastly, I wish you all a stimulating experience at this Conference, and to the overseas delegates, a pleasant stay in this vibrant city.
END/Thursday, September 28, 2000 NNNN