About cehealth

Callum Bir is a Director with Deloitte South East Asia consulting practice and is currently leading the Life Sciences & Health Care industry segment. He brings 17 years of experience in healthcare, technology advisory, and 12 years focused in Asia Pacific, Japan and US. Callum has spend the last decade focusing exclusively in the area of eHealth specializing in electronic health records, personal health management and disruptive innovation in disease management. Callum has been special interests in the area of standards development organizations and has been an active member in HL7 International, ISO TC215, IHE, HL7 Australia, and currently serving as Treasurer of HL7 Singapore, and Technical Lead for Singapore HITC.

Are EHRs sufficiently “Clinically” Driven?


I was inspired to write this after reading of this great article Engaging Clinicians in Clinical Content: Herding Cats or Piece of Cake? by Heather LESLIE, Sam HEARD, Sebastian GARDE, Ian MCNICOLL

The very first paragraph got me thinking about more questions, see extract below:

“…Many will agree that, to date, the process of EHR development has not been clinician focused…”

The most immediate question – Really? Aren’t clinicians engaged in all of the recent large national programs we see globally? So, what are of our smartest and senior clinicians, clinical informatics folks doing in some of large national programs – is there a leading / best practice when it comes down to clinician : clinical informatician: healthcare IT engineer?

Another related question that has troubled me for a while: How do we measure whether an EHR implementation is reliable and safe?

Callum Bir


Is there hope in making Semantic Interoperability make sense?

“Semantic Interoperability” is one of those term that has bugged me for perhaps the longest; and each year, I gain a new level of appreciation.

A decade ago, I recall giving a talk in Beijing China titled “semantic interoperability” to a large audience who did not speak English. This was one of those dual English/Chinese presentations. The night before the presentation, I was briefing my translator, and also a good friend as he was also an associate professor then at the local university in medicine. The first hardest task, was to adequately translate “semantic interoperability” title in Chinese. This was a really long-night discussing the context, the semantics, the so-what, etc. The next day, the presentation I thought was reasonably well received, at least because there were so many questions (all in Chinese) asked by the audience. As I recall, it took us a few years in China and really tested us on our own understanding, especially when the landscape was so different; everything from problems we were trying to solve (then), were not as well articulated, the lack of business-case, commercial environment, and overall, lacked approaches that worked [in China].

By mid 2000s, having completed a few complex / large implementation projects in Asia, I recall another major time, when I presenting project updates to my colleagues in the US at HQ. During the presentation of the details of one my large and more complex projects ( >$10M), one of my US colleague was steaming, and, resulted in him starting to “scream” at me and my team, because it wasn’t going to achieve “semantic interoperability” goals. Our initial reaction was, the client is really happy, we have signed off on the deliverables, it is meeting the client’s business goals, so, what’s the gap? Was this just a matter of semantics? This meeting ended abruptly, as he went out of the room, and everyone else in the room was left perplexed. It was time to ask “what is semantic interoperability“? I took my Singapore team aside, and asked them, if they knew new what went wrong. At the day progressed, we had spoken to a larger number of people in the same floor, while nobody understood the point. Through the week, further analysis, we learnt about the “levels” of semantic interoperability, and what are some implementation considerations. For the next 5 years after that incident, within the core Singapore colleagues would dare use the word semantic interoperability, and had become a sacred term, and we spent every extra effort in circumventing it.

On the other hand, in the past 5 or so years, I have seen a lot more people who use these 2 words fluently, especially from those where English isn’t their first language. It always sounds so much better when someone else trying to explain what it means, or, to sit in a room full of people who can appreciate the term.

Fortunately, there are now “standard” definitions of semantic interoperability, and also standards on the levels of interoperability, eg, level 0, 1, 2, 3 with intermediate grades.  One the definition I find interesting reading is Conceptual Interoperability (source: wikipedia) , which is level 6,

"...Level 6: Finally, if the conceptual model – i.e. the assumptions and constraints of the meaningful abstraction of reality – are aligned, the highest level of interoperability is reached: Conceptual Interoperability. This requires that conceptual models are documented based on engineering methods enabling their interpretation and evaluation by other engineers. In essence, this requires a “fully specified, but implementation independent model” as requested by Davis and Anderson; this is not simply text describing the conceptual idea." (Source Wikipedia)

Could this be the next key word for the next decade?


Healthcare IT Spend

Hospitals IT spend as a percentage of the operating budget or revenue can often be less than 1/4 spent by a bank or a telco. Looking at some of the private hospitals across Asia Pacific region, some of them spend are less than 1% of their annual revenue.

One of the key questions I spend time asking chief executives is, why is the IT budget so low?  This is probably also a reflection of the relatively low IT maturity in this sector especially in emerging markets in Asia.

There are many factors contributing to the relatively small spend.

Part of the problem I find is the lack of an open dialogue around the level of spend, and lack of strong business-cases that are presented to CFO and CEO.


Chronic Disease Management 2.0

I was honored to chair the 2nd Annual Wireless Healthcare Asia Summit 2012 for 2 days on the 23-24 April 2012. While we saw a lot of really interesting devices, various country perspectives, and presentations from various public and healthcare providers, I had hoped to present the “why” and the “who” question around wireless health, tele-health, mhealth, etc.

See slides below

I had hoped to offer points of views around the notion of an “operator” for managing chronic diseases. While I use some phrases such as DMO (Disease Management Organization), I use this rather loosely as not to confuse the audience with the uses of DMOs in the US. Do note that some of the detailed analysis presented in the slides are excluded in this distribution, but feel free to contact me.

Callum Bir

Privacy Protection Act in Hospitals and EHRs

The privacy discussion is quickly becoming pretty hot in South East Asia region with Malaysia coming up with the PDPA (Privacy Data Protection Act) with Singapore coming up with a similar Act next year (2012).

In recent “Beyond EHR” conference in Singapore several weeks ago, I was grateful to chair a panel discussion with leaders of some of the countries with national experiences from the UK, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, etc and with leading experts in room from Australia, Malaysia, Philippines, Dubai, Canada, etc, my sense out of it was that a lot of the details of the PDPA sort of laws was perhaps not necessary a broad spectrum discussion  among a broader set of professionals than I would have initially guessed.

I also looked for some clues to see what ISO TC215 was doing in this area, but speaking today with one of the key member of ISO TC215 and founding member of work-group 4, the general discussion seems to imply that the emphasis is around security and not privacy.

While the two I see as being inter-related somewhat, with privacy acts becoming a law, I am yet to get a sense of urgency for this discussion.

I found some of my colleagues in Canada have written this interesting point of view.

A new era of transparency for hospitals

Changes to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

A new era of transparency for hospitals On December 8, 2010, the Ontario government passed legislation to broaden the scope of theFreedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and designate hospitals as “institutions” under the Act. Ontario will usher in a new era of transparency and giving hospitals approximately one year to comply with FIPPA, the changes to which will be effective on January 1, 2012.Read More …

HIT + hIT = HIT 2.0

I strongly welcome market consolidation especially when it comes to healthcare IT (HIT companies becoming one with How-of IT (hIT). Some of the big HIT vendors today are still largely have more healthcare know-hows than the leading IT houses, while many of IT houses on average of their business struggle to spell healthcare. As combined companies, I look forward to the HIT 2.0 technologies. While this is a theoretical model, we are starting to see interesting consolidation plays.