Achieving E-Health Success: The Key Role for ANT

Achieving E-Health Success: The Key Role for ANT

Nilmini Wickramasinghe (Epworth HealthCare, Australia & RMIT University, Australia) and Arthur Tatnall (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3926-1.ch028


Healthcare delivery continues to be challenged in all OECD countries. To address these challenges, most are turning their attention to e-health as the panacea. Indeed, it is true that in today's global and networked world, e-health should be the answer for ensuring pertinent information, relevant data, and germane knowledge anywhere anytime so that clinicians can deliver superior healthcare. Sadly, healthcare has yet to realize the full potential of e-health, which is in stark contrast to other e-business initiatives such as e-government and e-education, e-finance, or e-commerce. This chapter asserts that it is only by embracing a rich theoretical lens of analysis that the full potential of e-health can be harnessed, and thus, it proffers Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as such a lens.
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Healthcare is a growing industry. Between 1960 and 1997 the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on healthcare by 29 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nearly doubled from 3.9 to 7.6% while the growth between 1995-2005 was on average 4% with the US spending the most (nearly 2.5 times more than any other country) and this is expected to reach 19.5% GDP by 20171. Since 2000, total spending on healthcare in these countries has been rising faster than economic growth, which has resulted in an average ratio of health spending to GDP of 9.0% in 2008 (OECD, 2010). Hence, reducing this expenditure as well as offering effective and efficient quality healthcare treatment is becoming a priority globally as is reflected in the fact that all OEDC countries are looking seriously into healthcare reform and especially the role for e-health solutions (OECD, 2010). Technology and automation have the potential to reduce these costs (Ghani et al., 2010; America Institute of Medicine, 2001; Wickramasinghe, 2000); thus, e-health, specifically the adoption and adaptation of web based technologies and advancements through Web 2.0, appears to be a powerful force of change for the healthcare industry worldwide.

Such external environmental forces are translating into numerous changes with regard to the role of technology for healthcare delivery at the organizational level. So much so that we are witnessing, healthcare providers grasping at many opportunities, especially in response to legislative mandates, to incorporate IT(information technology) and telecommunications with web based strategies to improve service and cost effectiveness to their key stakeholders; most notably patients. Many such e-initiatives including the e-medical record which in some form or other is currently being implemented in various countries. However these do not seem to represent a coherent and universal adoption of e-health.

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