Chile will be the first country in the region to enter into a formal technical cooperation agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for the development of a National Plan on eHealth in the framework of the regional strategy approved by the member countries at PAHO’s 51st Directing Council in 2011. Last week, representatives from the Ministry of Health of Chile and PAHO explored the scope of this technical collaboration on an eHealth plan.
“E-Health is not an option: it is an imperative in order to provide more and better health care,” affirmed René Prieto, Director of Information Technologies of the Ministry of Health of Chile, speaking on 2 March at PAHO Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The United Nations Global E-Government Survey 2012 ranks Chile in first place in the Americas for the adoption of information and communication technologies at the government level. “PAHO is one of the main institutions with the capacity to spearhead a regional project to ensure that the countries of the region appropriate information and communications technologies properly for the benefit of public health,” added Dr. Prieto.
WHO defines eHealth as “the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge, and research.” Examples of eHealth include electronic medical records; telehealth, which involves the delivery of health services using information technologies, specifically at a distance; mHealth, or the use of mobile devices such as cellular phones and other wireless patient-monitoring devices for medical purposes; and eLearning, which uses these technologies to facilitate distance learning, among others.
During the Chilean delegation’s visit, PAHO held a virtual and global technical consultation on implementation of the Plan of Action on eHealth in the Americas. Participants included the foremost international authorities on this subject from over 20 countries, drawn from academia, international organizations and other institutions in the information and communications technology and health fields. These experts reinforced PAHO’s leadership on this subject and concurred on the importance of launching a virtual eHealth laboratory as a scientific clearinghouse for existing eHealth initiatives as well as those in progress.
During the technical consultation, Dr. Najeeb Al Shorbaji, Director of Knowledge Management and Sharing at WHO, reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to eHealth and assured PAHO and the participating countries and institutions that it is a strategic priority for this biennium. Dr. Alex Jadad, Director of the Center for Global eHealth Innovation in Canada urged continuing efforts to make eHealth a centerpiece of a people-centered health care model.
Marcelo D’Agostino, Manager of PAHO’s Knowledge Management and Communication area asserted that PAHO is prepared to support the member countries in developing eHealth plans to move “towards universal access to health” through information and communications technology. Dr. Mirta Roses Periago has coined this slogan for the 9th Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information (CRICS 9) scheduled for October of this year, which will address this topic, recalled D’Agostino.
A 2010 study by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shows that the average proportion of landline connections in the Americas is 17.15 per 100 inhabitants and 83.27% have mobile service. An average 24.20% of households have a computer and 13.30% have Internet access, while Internet users make up an average 25.2% of the population.
Recognizing the disparities in the region and the different needs of the countries and their populations, PAHO considers that implementation of these eHealth plans should adhere to the principles and values set out in the Health Agenda for the Americas (2008-2017): a) human rights; b) universality; c) access and inclusion; d) Pan American solidarity; e) equity in health; and f) social participation.
- PAHO E-Health website
- eHealth Strategy and Plan of Action
- PAHO/WHO to Support Governments of the Americas in the Development of eHealth Public Polices