Current State, Recent Advances and Perspectives of Development of Healthcare Information and Communication Technologies in Armenia: A Review Article

Current State, Recent Advances and Perspectives of Development of Healthcare Information and Communication Technologies in Armenia: A Review Article

Georgi Chaltikyan, Armen Avoyan, Ruben Hovhannisyan, Tatul Saghatelyan, Aleksandr Aroyan
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijrqeh.2013100105
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Armenia became an independent state after breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991. After considerable derangements in the first independence decade, the country's healthcare system has seen some progress recently in terms of improving existing and developing new services, diversification of financing, with the introduction of public benefits, private domain and health insurance. The Information and Communication Technologies sector is one of the country's most dynamically developing and competitive industries. Despite that, Armenia has had modest achievements in eHealth and telemedicine so far. Centralized eHealth policy, administration and infrastructure are as yet absent, Health Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and applications are very slowly making their way into mainstream healthcare practices, and there are few regular telemedicine activities. Some revival of the field in the recent years is primarily related to consistent efforts by the authorities to develop eHealth, and the emergence of the national professional organization – Armenian Association of Telemedicine (AATM).
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The need to organize more effectively the delivery of Health Care Services (in terms of time and distance) on the one hand, and to contain rising health care costs on the other, coupled with outstanding advancements in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have resulted in the increased usage of ICT applications in medicine and health care over the past few decades (EC, 2012). Information and Communication Technologies currently represent one of the fastest growing and dynamic areas of applied science, services and industry. Extensive penetration of ICT into various fields of everyday activities has indisputably resulted in substantial improvements in quality of life globally. Health care has been no exception to the above mentioned trend. ICT have the potential to revolutionize the way medicine is practiced, studied, taught and learned by students and healthcare professionals (WHO, 2012).

The use of ICT in medical practice, education and research have resulted in the emergence and maturation of a specific area at the crossroads of technology and health care, known today under a bunch of terms such as Telemedicine (TM), Telehealth (TH), eHealth (eH), and Health Telematics (HT). Among them, eHealth is the overarching concept for the range of tools based on information and communication technologies used to assist and enhance the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and management of health and lifestyle. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines eHealth as “use, in the health sector, of digital data – transmitted, stored and retrieved electronically – in support of health care, both at the local site and at a distance” (EC, 2004; WHO, 2005).

eHealth covers the interaction between patients and health-service providers, institution-to-institution data transmission, or peer-to-peer communication between patients or health professionals. It includes a wide range of digital health-related data management services (health information networks, electronic health records, web-based personal health records), telemedicine services (distant consulting, distant diagnostic and therapeutic manipulation, distant patient monitoring), and multiple medical information delivery services for both health care professionals and community (distant and electronic medical education and training, patients’ self education, and on-line health professionals’ communication) (EC, 2008).

The amount and complexity of health-related information and knowledge has increased to such a degree that a major component of any health organization is information processing. The health sector is clearly an information intensive sector which increasingly depends on information and communication technologies. These technologies are supporting progress in medical research, better management and diffusion of medical knowledge, and a shift towards evidence-based medicine (Pak, 2008; EC, 2009).

eHealth is enabled by the use of specific hardware and software solutions (devices, tools, applications and services) (WHO, 2011). eHealth tools support the aggregation, analysis and storage of clinical data in all its forms; information tools provide access to the latest findings; while communication tools enable collaboration among many different organizations and health professionals. The most important eHealth tools are listed below:

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