UM, PTL & Better Working Together to Train Maltese Students on Digital Health

The Faculty of ICT, together with the Faculty of Health Sciences, are launching an MSc in Digital Health starting October 2021. Digital health is an emerging and strategic health priority in most countries around the world including Malta. WHO lists “electronic health records and standards underpinning the exchange of data & mobile health apps for monitoring and prevention” among others as key advances in the field of healthcare. With the market-leading openEHR platform Better is providing the tool necessary to prepare students for one of the core solutions that will be available for the Maltese health services.

An openEHR system focuses on the persistence of data and its safe and secure exchange. Its ability to exchange and make use of information, is another advantage that will allow the students to get used to exchanging and interpreting data using common standards in healthcare. Students will also have the ability to build new applications from different vendors on top of the platform, to integrate data from existing legacy systems, and enable the seamless exchange of structured, meaningful data.

The Department of Computer Information Systems within the University of Malta’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology has worked closely with the industry for a number of years, with PTL being one of these organisations. In the last eight years, a number of solutions that apply the practical aspects of the courses offered by the Department by creating real life simulations have been found.

The latest fruit borne from this collaboration is the licensing agreement that has just been signed on Tuesday 27 April 2021 at the University of Malta’s Msida Campus, which will now provide the tools needed to improve the way digital health solutions are addressed for the research and the study units undertaken by students.

Dr Conrad Attard, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Information & Communication Technology, and Lecturer in Computer Information Systems, said that there are more initiatives like this one in the pipeline, to increase the resources available for students and researchers, allowing them to work from different locations remotely and create solutions.

The new software which is to be installed on a number of virtual machines, is a Better Platform, which is a vendor-neutral structured clinical data repository enabling lifelong patient records, with low-code tools and configurable forms for fast application development that are easy to integrate into the existing system. As part of the programme, Better will provide a number of educational instruments that will include developer support, access to technical documentation and tutorials, and a single day workshop focusing on technology enablement.

As a partner with Better on the implementation of Better Platform within Malta’s healthcare system, PTL has been entrusted with the project management, setting up of the IT hosting environment on the Government’s Microsoft Azure Stack Cloud Infrastructure, and the maintenance and support of such system. PTL has also been involved in the Technical System Analysis and the design of the blueprints for the implementation and integration points within the Malta Health Ecosystem, together with the corresponding data migration tasks.

University Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella, welcomed this agreement, saying that whilst the healthcare sector has always retained its significance in terms of how many people it affects on a day-to-day basis, the current pandemic highlights the need of introducing more human resources into this sector even more.

Mr Pierre Attard, Managing Director at PTL, stated that both the University of Malta and the industry have much to gain from these collaborations, since they promote the discovery of new synergies and models that bring value to all stakeholders. Building complementary skills is a reliable formula for successful collaborations and providing access to industry leading platforms, like the Better Platform, would provide students with real-world work environments to engage with.

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