René Spronk

René Spronk has studied Informatics at the Twente University of Technology in the Netherlands. He has provided systems integration consultancy in healthcare to hundreds of healthcare provider organisations and application vendors since 1996, using a variety of interoperability standards. He has provided numerous HL7, DICOM and IHE training courses in various European countries.

He is involved as a volunteer in the activities of HL7, at the international level as well as within various European HL7 country organizations, and in IHE Europe. He was awarded with an HL7 "Volunteer of the Year" award in 2008, and was made a "HL7 Fellow" in 2011.

René is a Trainer/Consultant with Ringholm bv in the Netherlands. He can be contacted via Rene.Spronk@Ringholm.com.

Medical technology companies have a lot to consider when developing new products: a successful device must address an unmet need, deliver value to users and the health system, meet regulatory standards, and so on. But many companies are neglecting a key issue which is becoming increasingly essential – digital technologies and connected devices must be compatible with existing systems. For too long, interoperability was a secondary consideration. Sometimes it was not a consideration at all. In future, this simply will not be a viable approach. I believe interoperability must become a core element of medtech product design. If your device does not connect seamlessly with other systems, you will be trying to sell a fax machine that doesn’t connect to the phone line. For users – patients, health professionals and healthcare providers – the idea of digital and connected devices that cannot sync with others is becoming unthinkable. One-off solutions are off the menu. If it doesn’t connect, it cannot scale. If it cannot scale, it doesn’t work. Avoiding duplication and errors Think about it from a patient viewpoint. They want unified access to their own data, and EU legislation makes this a right. People expect to be able to collect data from multiple organisations and multiple devices, including apps and home monitoring tools. From a health system perspective, interoperability is fast becoming a ‘no brainer’. Failure to combine data sources means missed opportunities to derive insights from artificial intelligence, for example. Worse than that, it leads to inefficiency and leaves the door open to errors. If patients, health professionals or administrative staff have to manually re-enter data, we have needless duplication which implies avoidable costs. But it also risks human error: typing mistakes can have serious consequences and some data may not be transposed at all. For European consumers,...