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eHealth: Start With the Professionals

With the prospect of broadband networks becoming more and more of a reality, it appears that concepts such as eHealth are not too far away. Digital healthcare describes the whole system of GPs, hospitals and regional healthcare centres, while eHealth describes the many health applications which will become available for people to use at home.

Over the last decade there has been a huge increase in digital healthcare services, particularly in hospitals. However the development of these services has not really advanced beyond pilots and small scale projects.

There are various reasons for this including:

  • most importantly, the funding mechanisms generally don’t cover the cost of eHealth applications;
  • a lack of clear policies is another problem which has led to many, non-compatible, private and public systems being utilised; and
  • the lack of affordable broadband

In order to develop eHealth it would make sense to first canvass the requirements of the profession by securing the involvement of GPs, hospitals and regional healthcare centres, and then consulting with the wider community.

The lack of national government policies is the main component which is missing to enable the development of this national scheme. Most of those involved in healthcare understand the benefits of eHealth and most health economists clearly see the cost savings that can be made, once a proper eHealth system is in place.

How to get there is the big problem. There is currently not a single country in the world that has achieved that aim, but it is very obvious that there is an increased awareness of the benefits of a national broadband network that can be used for eHealth and other applications. The countries which are making the most progress are those whose governments are putting trans-sector policies in place directed towards using national broadband for eHealth applications.

Such policies should start with input from the health professionals. While this process may be better applied to digital education, there are still far too many silo-based activities within the healthcare system itself, which is one of the main obstacles to the development of an efficient and effective eHealth system.

As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons for this is the lack of national government policies to guide the process.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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