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Speech by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food


Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the opening ceremony of the IT in Health Forum today (July 30):

Dr Tang, Honourable Sin, Dr Chan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed my honour and pleasure to witness the opening of the IT in Health Forum. In the face of emerging infectious diseases, this Forum is particularly timely by providing a platform for knowledge exchange among IT and health professionals to explore methods and share experiences in the areas of disease tracking and control. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, particularly our distinguished speakers and delegates from other parts of the world.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is committed to developing a first class and modern healthcare system for the people of Hong Kong. To make this happen, we need to manage information and use information technology much more effectively. We need to capture, analyse and share high quality information by harnessing new systems, and we need to ensure that our healthcare information system can do this at the critical point of delivery of care and services.

In recent years, the Government has strongly supported the application of health informatics to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery. The Hospital Authority has developed a sophisticated integrated clinical information system (the CMS) to support the delivery of patient care and to assist in clinical management in all public hospitals. Thousands of doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals are using the system everyday in both inpatient and outpatient settings. It helps our clinicians in diagnosis, information seeking, generation of alerts, interpretation of clinical signals and clinical decision-making.

The usefulness of such an integrated clinical information system was highlighted in the recent SARS crisis. In late March, health informatics professionals of the Hospital Authority built up a central database for SARS patients within 72 hours based on the CMS infrastructure. A web-based application, named eSARS, was developed, which facilitated information sharing among all public hospitals and also with the Department of Health for timely evaluation of diagnostic tests, possible prognostic factors, and treatment alternatives, and also provided a direct access of clinical information for field epidemiologists in case investigation and contact tracing. Furthermore, Department of Health has complemented this with a Centralized Case and Contact Information System ("SARS-CCIS"), which consolidated data obtained through eSARS and additional data through field investigation. The SARS-CCIS integrated with other epidemiological tools for epidemiological investigation and case cluster analysis.

In addition to these two systems, the Major Incident Investigation and Disaster Support System (the MIIDSS) of the Police Force also played a critical role in response management and timely implementation of public health actions. The MIIDSS was used to analyse the information of the close contacts of SARS patients and was able to reveal the links between one case with another. Once identified, these close contacts were required to undergo home confinement, during which our medical staff regularly monitored their health conditions. Reports generated by the MIIDSS also facilitated investigations at places where SARS patients resided by our interdepartmental response team comprising experts from Department of Health, Housing Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and so on. The investigation was aimed at identifying environmental factors which might be relevant to the spread of disease, and facilitated our swift action to address these environmental factors. Moreover, not only has such use of information systems facilitated the effective containment of SARS, the information thus collected also paved the way for future academic research on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of SARS.

In addition to clinical management, information technology can also be used in maintaining health records, knowledge management, communications, strategic planning, clinical governance and many other areas to develop a seamless, integrated and efficient healthcare system. With all these development potentials and opportunities, it is not surprising that nearly all the health authorities around the world are taking active steps to build up their national health information infrastructures. In Hong Kong, we have developed an electronic knowledge gateway (the eKG) on various clinical specialties to support healthcare professionals and management staff in their education, training and development of evidence-based professional practices. The Hospital Authority and Department of Health have also laid the foundations for introducing lifelong electronic patient records for the people of Hong Kong by enhancing contents of its electronic database for public hospital patients and implementing electronic data interchange engines to facilitate sharing of clinical data with external parties, including private practitioners.

The Department of Health is also developing a Public Health Information System (PHIS), which aims at establishing a health information network to link existing health information systems to enable information sharing, data analysis and ad hoc enquiries and reporting in a timely and efficient way. The main objective of the PHIS is to assess the population health status and health needs for appropriate health care provision and resource allocation, and to support more effective prevention and control of diseases. Establishment of this system will certainly contribute towards improving the health of the population.

I would like to congratulate the Steering Committees of the DO IT Campaign and IT in Health Forum for successfully organising this forum. With the valuable input of the distinguished speakers and the interaction of all participants, I am sure this forum will be a very useful platform of ideas and insights on the application of information technology in enhancing the quality and efficiency of our healthcare system.

With these remarks, I declare the IT in Health forum open and hope all of you will enjoy and benefit from this forum.

Thank you.

End/Wednesday, July 30, 2003


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