Reflection on the present and future of eHealth in the Americas continued this week as part of the project eHealth Conversations: Information Management, Dialogue, and Knowledge Exchange to Approach Universal Access to Health. The topics discussed included electronic government (eGovernment), eHealth management, patient safety, infrastructure, and legal aspects (policy).
The participants in the eHealth Conversations project of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have already begun drafting a publication that will present the conclusions drawn from these dialogues.
Considerable progress was made in the dialogue on eHealth management, with major approaches, recommendations, and conclusions put forward. One conclusion reached was that information is key to good administration; thus, information and communications technologies (ICT) for data management are tremendously important tools.
Another basic premise highlighted in the eHealth management debate was the importance of process evaluations to improving health care: “Without measurement, nothing can be improved,” stated one participant. This dialogue also addressed such topics as the relationship between manual and online processes.
On the issue of patient safety, the discussion centered on the importance of respecting rights, since this is an integral part of quality and safety, as are dignity, equal treatment, confidentiality, privacy, personal safety, identity, information, communication, and consent.
The participants raised the following questions in the policy dialogue:
- If there is no guidepost—that is, a strategy with clear policies–can we really implement eHealth without fearing that it is only a passing fad?
- If no influential institution is in charge of implementing and monitoring eHealth policies, are they useful?
- What will happen if we have a budget only for implementing eHealth policies but not for monitoring them to ensure their sustainability?
- If institutions and users are not empowered, these efforts will be nothing more than lessons learned, the participants said.
The eHealth Conversations also addressed infrastructure, with progress made towards defining technological and organizational infrastructure and adopting certain premises. With regard to eGovernment, the discussion centered on the question of whether eHealth should be the province of eGovernment or the ministries of health.