Within the umbrella of e-commerce, one area, e-health, has yet to reach its full potential in many developed countries, let alone developing countries. Each country is positioned differently and has varying potential and preparedness regarding embracing e-commerce technologies generally and e-health in particular. Given the macrolevel nature of many issues pertaining to the development of e-health (Alvarez, 2002), in order to be more effective in their e-health initiatives, it is important for countries to assess their potential, identify their relative strengths and weaknesses, and thereby develop strategies and policies to address these issues to effectively formulate and implement appropriate e-health initiatives. To do this effectively, it is valuable to have an integrative framework that enables the assessment of a country’s e-health preparedness. This article serves to develop such a framework that can be applied to various countries throughout the globe, and from this generate an e-health preparedness grid. In so doing, we hope to facilitate better understanding of e-health initiatives and thus maximize their power.
The Goals Of E-Health
In order to develop a robust framework, it is imperative to understand the many goals of e-health. These goals, taken together, perhaps best characterize what e-health is all about (or what it should be about; Journal of Medical Internet Research [JMIR], 2003). Specifically, significant goals of e-health include the following.
Efficiency: One of the promises of e-health is to increase efficiency in health care, thereby decreasing costs. One possible way of decreasing costs would be by avoiding duplicative or unnecessary diagnostic or therapeutic interventions, through enhanced communication possibilities between health care establishments, and through patient involvement (Health Technology Center, 2000). The Internet will naturally serve as an enabler for achieving this goal in e-health.
Quality of care: Increasing efficiency involves not only reducing costs, and thus is not an end in and of itself, but rather should be considered in conjunction with improving quality, one of the ultimate goals of e-health. More educated consumers (as a result of the informational aspects of e-health) would then communicate more effectively with their primary care providers, which will, in turn, lead to better understanding and improved quality of care.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Efficiency: One of the promises of e-health is to increase efficiency in health care, thereby decreasing costs.
Equity: This refers to making health care more equitable. In particular, some of the key issues for equity revolve around broad access and familiarity with the technology.
Evidence Based: E-health interventions should be evidence based in the sense that their effectiveness and efficiency should not be assumed but proven by rigorous scientific evaluation and support from case histories.
IT Infrastructure: It is the combination of hardware, software, networking, and telecommunications that forms the foundation for supporting IT capabilities in place.
E-Health: It is health care delivery supported and enabled through the use of information systems and information technology, especially Web-based technologies.
Framework: It is the conceptual structure used to solve a complex issue.
Morbidity: This refers to either the incidence rate or to the prevalence rate of a disease.
Telemedicine: Telemedicine is the use of information systems and information technology to provide or facilitate the delivery of clinical-care evidence-based medicine. It also involves the application of uniform standards of evidence gained from previous cases to facilitate superior medical-practice outcomes.