eHealth for Dummies; Those who want to make a difference

In recent times, when the letter ‘e-’ is attached to any word, everyone gets excited and this is a good thing because the world is changing rapidly with technological advancements; either you learn something 'tech' or you might be left behind.

Global Health

Health in general has improved over the years, thanks to medical breakthroughs, technology, improvement of techniques/procedures, funding and better communication between different stakeholders. Putting things in perspective, 'good health' has been measured with different parameters but the most popular one is life expectancy which seems to be a bit practical — a healthy person lives longer than an unhealthy person. Most African countries wont pass this test as life expectancy on the continent is low on an average compared to Asian countries who will score high.

According to the World Health Organisation, Health is defined as a "State of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” which might mean that, even with high life expectancy, many people are not healthy owing to economic problems in different countries, the social structure of our society and our environment (natural or created by technology).

Most people in the developed world are more likely to die from things not related to diseases like eating too much, choking, depression et cetera, than Malaria, AIDS, Ebola, in developing countries due to improvements in their medical systems. People are living longer even in Africa because of the efforts of the International Community but why same problems (diseases). This effort needs to be taking a notch higher. Filling the gap means, Global Health initiatives need to go beyond the normal approach which has solved so many problems and using more innovative ways in ensuring we have good health systems both in developed and underdeveloped countries.

What e-Health is and what it’s not

eHealth is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health (World Health Organisation [WHO]). This includes

  • Electronic health records
  • Computerized physician order entry
  • ePrescribing
  • Clinical decision support system
  • Telemedicine
  • Consumer health Informatics
  • Health knowledge management
  • Virtual Health Care teams
  • mHealth (use of mobile devices)
  • Health Informatics

(Source for the list above: Wikipedia)

Probably before now you thought eHealth was about making health apps and websites but it’s bigger than that.

For entrepreneurs who want to make a quick buck from making health app, you’ll understand that just developing mobile applications (or solutions) might not work in the long run because they cannot work independently. They only function in a system which makes use of other components to achieve a desired goal.

Most people don’t realize this. The number of mobile health applications have soared in the past two years accounting for 165,000 mobile app on the Apple iTunes and Android app stores according to a new study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (Medscape, 2015). Most of these apps are not always used. eHealth soluntions cannot exists on it’s own but work with other components of a system to actualize its goals if it’s going to be Sustainable.

Issues facing eHealth

  • Technology is exciting but in this case it’s difficult to evaluate end results derived from this process. Although it’s a new field and will slowly improve.
  • Acceptance rate of eHealth solutions is still a problem as patients crave for the human factor, in Telemedicine, a doctor cannot tell if the patient follows his/her instructions carefully and regulatory bodies, have fears that technology might take away the human factor from healthcare which is essential.
  • Legal frameworks in some developing countries are not adequate to support eHealth solutions and define medical jurisdiction. For example 55% of countries have legislation to protect electronic patient data Among other issues facing the field (WHO, facts sheet— eHealth)

With more Global Health problem, the health systems of countries around the world have to be strengthened to aid the combat of diseases on a global scale. This needs interdisciplinary collaboration with stakeholders all around the world. To achieve WHO’s standard for health, governments around the world are charged to improve the human condition of their citizens.

You can’t build a Hospital in a community and say you’ve contributed to Global Health. It goes beyond building hospitals to equipping hospital personnel and the patients with adequate knowledge to achieve Global Health goals in communities. This is where eHealth comes in — to strengthen the system.