Experts reflect on the future of eHealth
Only a few days away to the "eHealth Conversations" project coming to a close, the virtual dialogues continue to be of particular interest, presenting views from different areas of expertise and perspectives that stress the importance of eHealth to achieving health equity.
The project launched a conversation among experts and professionals, who discussed issues such as access to information, patient safety, eGovernment, and education in information and communication technologies (ICT).
Access to information as a fundamental human right
Irene Melamed, who coordinates the virtual dialogue on access to health sciences information, summarized this week’s conversation: “Participants shared common concerns about eHealth, points where their work intersects, and challenges to collaboration.” Working collaboratively, she said, “brings together the various voices so that a human rights focus and access to information become a cross-cutting dimension.”
The recommendations made in the conversation on access to information included facilitating the search for mechanisms to foster access to information in developing countries in order to bridge the gap and benefit the people who use the health systems—those seeking accessible, affordable, quality care.
Impact of eHealth on patient safety
Participants in the virtual dialogue on patient safety reviewed some of the concepts related to quality, safety, and patients’ rights and shared their opinions regarding which of these areas could benefit from the use of ICTs.
They also underscored that the growing use of ICTs in health calls for the development of standards to ensure that these systems meet the operation and design conditions needed to guarantee that ICTs have a positive impact on quality rather than undermining it or introducing new risks to patient safety and rights.
The participants recalled that in 2005 the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the World Alliance for Patient Safety and identified six areas of action, including the need to develop “Solutions for Patient Safety.” Nine priority factors were identified as responsible for adverse events associated with health care. The virtual dialogue stressed that ICTs could have a positive impact on five of these areas.
eHealth and its relation to eGovernment projects
Participants said that eGovernment is important for eHealth, since it makes it possible to set standards for interoperability and develop infrastructure. They said that eHealth interoperability should not be confined to eHealth services; instead, communication among the existing systems in the countries should be facilitated. For that to happen, eGovernment must suggest these standards and the infrastructure needed to support them, said conversation coordinator Valentina Jaramillo.
The participants agreed on recommendations, such as ongoing improvement of training for health professionals through the sharing of experiences at the local and regional levels. They also recommended that health education use projects involving virtual communities of patients and monitoring by physicians via ICTs.
The PAHO/WHO “eHealth Conversations” project is being implemented within the framework of the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth for the Americas. The end product will be a publication that will present the conclusions drawn from these dialogues—to be updated periodically and disseminated by PAHO/WHO.