Today more than ever the needs of health have increased. Current population trends make it more difficult to have acces to health, this is true specially for people living in medium and small cities. While the majority of specialized doctors are located in big metropolitan cities, in the developing world population is growing at higher rates than the rest of the world and thus the need of doctors in those areas is increasing. On the other hand, in the developed world population is aging which means that the need of constant health control is also increasing. Therefore there is a huge need to improve access to health technologies to solve this situation. A promising solution is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health or e-health.
2) Solutions. The solution of such problem can be categorized in 3 areas:
- Telemedicine to improve diagnosis and patient monitoring. The use of telecommunications and information can be a powerful tool to provide clinical care at distance eliminating the distance barriers of patients. Nowadays there are different pilots of telemedicine systems in different countries, an example of this is the American Telemedicine Association. Services include primary care and specialist referral of patients and remote patient monitoring. The use of telemedicine not only is a cost efficient solution to bring access to health, this solution also reduce the CO2 emissions due to the reduction of transportation of patients. More information at http://www.americantelemed.org/about-telemedicine/what-is-telemedicine watch how it works https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y02nSCYl2ZE
- Big data analytics to improve the quality of health (Electronical Medical Record). Systematic collection of electronic information about patients and population can allow decision makers to improve the health system. Standardized data includes demographics, medical history, medication, allergies, etc. The WHO is elaborating a minimal information international standards to create a network of information. http://www.who.int/goe/publications/ehealth_series_vol6/en/
- Educating the health workforce. Online education programs together with a network of specialist will increase the quality of the doctors located in cities in the developing world. An example of this is the Brazilian network of doctors and universities with constant education online programs to doctors and nurses (the name of the network is RUTE). See more at http://www.export.gov/brazil/static/MktInfo_Latest_bg_br_076007.pdf
Doctors and hospitals
Local and national governments
4) Future steps.
Step 1. A complete research on available technologies. The first thing we need is to understand the state of art of the subject. To do so we need to arrange interviews with health experts that are working on the subject to understand the available technologies and the lesson learned from practitioners.
Step 2: Develop a national network of doctors, hospitals, regional governments, universities and international organizations. Once this network is working we can start a 10 year plan to reform the national health system.
Step 3: start a pilot in one city. This pilot will give us light to evaluate the best way of scaling ehealth to the rest of the country.