Start with core systems and services
Many successful eHealth programs have purposely narrowed their scope, prioritizing one or two key elements common to patients. A number of jurisdictions, such as Singapore have focused their attention on consolidating all patient records into one electronic health record that is accessible throughout the healthcare system, thereby creating a very obvious and patient-centric tool around which to rally the wider program.
In Denmark, the eHealth program started by automating referral letters, discharge letters, prescriptions and lab results, which led to the integration of other key programs in later phases. This strategy has effectively allowed organizations to focus all of their resources on achieving a set goal, learning key lessons that can be adapted into the next phase, and building adoption through a step-by-step program.
In both cases, authorities focused their attention on creating effective change within a small number of common elements that would have the largest impact on both the program and the patient experience.
Target chronic diseases
Respondents indicated that eHealth could have the biggest impact on patients that suffer from chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and COPD. These patients are high-frequency users of health services and tend to require ongoing monitoring and treatment. Indeed, this segment should be of particular importance to eHealth planners for a number of reasons.
For one, they are the audience that is most likely to see immediate benefits from an eHealth system. By leveraging technology, chronic disease sufferers can be empowered to self-manage their condition, reducing the need for on-site testing, and eliminating unnecessary hospital visits.
This will not only improve the patient’s quality of life, but also free up valuable healthcare facilities and professionals to focus on emerging cases.
For eHealth planners, this patient segment can also help to deliver strong evidence-based clinical results that demonstrate the program’s value. Key metrics such as number of hospital visits, disease progression and pharmaceutical compliance are all straightforward to measure and clearly relate to enhanced clinical outcomes.
Put the basic technological infrastructure in place
The most obvious prerequisite for eHealth is a basic technical infrastructure, including crucial components like telecommunications networks, internet access, and high device penetration.
Respondents from jurisdictions that enjoy advanced technology infrastructure reported fewer barriers to both eHealth implementation and adoption. For example, by implementing a national high-speed broadband network, eHealth authorities in China are creating capacity to confidently roll-out programs to both patients and professionals over a very reliable system.
From an enabling perspective, this often means developing systems that house data, compile records and control access to patient records. By developing a scalable platform that can easily interoperate with a wide variety of systems, eHealth planners can build a level of flexibility into the system that enables the consolidation of future technology and programs. Developing a core set of technology standards and processes will be crucial to accelerating eHealth implementation. While on a regional or institutional level individual stakeholders must be encouraged to select the platforms and systems that best reflect their unique clinical needs, it will be vitally important to provide standard guidelines to facilitate interoperability of systems.
Case Study: Australia: National eHealth Transition Authority (NEHTA)
Case Study: Singapore: National EHR system
- By focusing on core elements, eHealth managers can scope their efforts to areas that create the widest benefits to the system as a whole.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) are often the catalyst to widespread healthcare system transformation.
- The largest impact is often achieved in patient segments that suffer from chronic diseases.
- While technology infrastructure is a necessary enabler of eHealth, every effort should be made to ensure it is simple, accessible and affordable.