The Role of E-Health in Developing Nations

The Role of E-Health in Developing Nations

Shane O'Hanlon (University of Limerick, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3691-0.ch020

Abstract

Many developing nations have begun to introduce elements of e-Health to improve service provision. This chapter provides an account of work in the area including case studies where pioneers have utilised modern mobile technologies to quickly and efficiently introduce new mHealth interventions, despite being resource-limited and having a heavy disease burden. Telemedicine has become well established, linking these nations with specialists in centres of excellence. Obstacles such as cost, inadequate infrastructure, data security, and the lack of a trained health informatics workforce need to be resolved. Several innovative solutions have been put forward: satellite broadband access for the most remote areas, international sponsorship initiatives, use of open source software, and exchange programmes for staff education. There is strong support from the World Health Organization and other international bodies, as development of the eHealth agenda has the potential to help ease access barriers and improve provision of healthcare in developing countries. This is explored in this chapter.
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Evolution And Evidence

As early as 1969, computers were predicted to be a solution for the growing demands of healthcare provision (Barnett & Sukenik, 1969). Although the capabilities of technology have improved exponentially since then, there is still a need for better evidence for the effectiveness of e-Health solutions. The WHO resolution on e-Health speaks about “the potential impact that it could have” and the EC notes that e-Health will provide “better, more efficient healthcare services for all”. Although it seems logical, there is however an inherent danger in assuming that e-Health will have benefits for patients. For example, one study reported an unexpected increase in mortality when a computerised provider order entry (CPOE) system was introduced in a paediatric hospital (Han et al., 2005). It has been suggested that socio-technical change may have been responsible for this result (O’Hanlon 2011). It demonstrates the importance of considering usability when designing these systems, and of performing careful evaluations when implementing them (Catwell & Sheikh, 2009). Thankfully a more recent similar project demonstrated a significant reduction of 20% in mortality (Longhurst et al., 2010).

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