Dutch soil excellent for ICT-platform breeding in health care

Amsterdam 10 December 1999Once again, a new platform has been founded in The Netherlands to promote the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in the health care sector. This time, a series of well-known industry companies and research organisations, such as Philips, KPN, Hiscom, Farrington, and TNO, the Dutch National Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, have joined their forces to create the Health Care ICT Industry Platform (ZIIP). The ZIIP initiative, already the third one in the medical area, aims at uniting the ICT industrial know how with focus on health care and at establishing solid directives for standardisation.

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The objective of the ZIIP consortium is to join all manufacturers of hardware and software, network providers, consultancy agents, and tele-communications suppliers who are active in the field of health care related ICT. Behind the scenes, the ZIIP initiators appear to be working very closely together with the ICT-platform, which has been established in May 1999 by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. This government platform is being chaired by the leading CDA politician, Elco Brinkman, and is referred to as IPZ, ICT-Platform for Health Care. The IPZ is representing nearly every organisation of physicians, hospitals and patients in the country.

The ZIIP consortium reports its plans to both the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Dutch government has asked the ZIIP organisation to submit proposals and scenarios with regard to the integration of existing and future systems, networks, interoperability and the migration problem. The ZIIP people equally will have to deal with a broad spectrum of issues, such as privacy/security, identification/authentication, card technology, interfaces design for medical equipment, and Trusted Third Parties.

In fact, ZIIP wants to become a platform for pre-competitive collaboration in order to work out common recommendations and standards. This approach is expected to better promote the entrance of ICT within the health care area. Widely accepted standards are indispensable to develop initiatives, such as the electronic patient record and the care passport. Both projects request the interconnection of a large number of systems with different operating units, architectures, classifications, databases, communication standards and sets of codes.

In the initial phase, the ZIIP initiators conducted a rather strict membership policy, by accepting only large and renowned systems providers who already had proven themselves. In the meanwhile, the door has been put wide open for each party that wants to become a ZIIP member, as Leo Vollebregt states, who is ZIIP representative on behalf of Hiscom, a major hospital information system provider. Mr. Vollebregt continues that the ZIIP has no intention of becoming a monolithic group. Multinationals as well as SMEs, software as well as hardware providers, network as well as telecommunications firms are welcome. Companies like Siemens, SAP and Applicare already have solicited for ZIIP membership.

At the special request of the ICT government platform, the ZIIP consortium has waited a couple of months before starting with promotion and member recruitment. The IPZ had to be firmly established first. Currently, the ZIIP is actively making publicity because a second organisation for medical ICT-providers has been founded some three months ago. This ILZ, ICT-suppliers for the health care sector, constitutes an initiative by Jos Baptist among others. Mr. Baptist is an ICT-consultant and co-founder of the VI&G, a committee for information specialists who are active in the hospital information systems field. He has been working for quite some years with the HL7-standard, which is applied in health care to interconnect divergent applications.

The ILZ-platform already consists of some thirty paying members, including system integrators and vendors for hospitals, general practitioners, home care representatives, paramedics, pharmaceutical experts, organisations for disabled persons, medical specialists and one network provider for electronic data interchange (EDI). The member list counts well-known companies, like McKessonHBOC, Philips, C/TAC, Lifeline, Agilent (HP), Unisys, Chipsoft, and Innovit. Strangely enough, some of the ILZ-members also play a major role in the ZIIP-platform, such as Farrington, Agilent, Hiscom, and Philips. ZIIP claims to have been first to search contact with the ILZ-platform for future collaboration.

ILZ Chairman Marcel van Loosbroek has recognised that the ILZ and ZIIP in many ways tend to overlap each other. In fact, three different parties have to come together and start talking with each other in the end. These three are the government, the ICT-suppliers, as well as the end-users consisting of the hospitals and physicians. In this regard, Mr. van Loosbroek does not rule out the possibility that the ILZ- and ZIIP-platforms eventually will merge. As the news source for this article, the VMW Magazine explicitly refers to the Automatisering Gids. For more specific details on the IPZ government platform, please also read the VMW article Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport plans establishment of ICT-platform in health care in the June 1999 issue.


Leslie Versweyveld

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