According to the World Health Organisation, about 1.5 billion people access e-health services across Asia and Africa. In developing countries, health technology helps overcome the lack of universal and reliable access to information and communication technology.
Technology is rapidly changing and growing in developing nations. It may prove to be the perfect means of attaining the health targets and growing consumer demands, improving the outcomes of health care and public health services.
The impact of digital health systems can be measured across three areas:
- Systems facilitating clinical practice
- Institutional systems
- Systems that facilitate care at a distance
The systems that facilitate clinical practice include digital recording systems, archiving data and managing information. On an institutional level, digital systems include the management of early disease warning and disaster management. Systems that facilitate care at a distance include a range of technologies that support doctor-patient communication and long-distance monitoring of treatments.
Developed nations have been keeping track of medical records in a digitized format for a few years now. However, in the United States, only 20% of medical data is stored in a digital format. When studying the impact of the practice on outcomes and health-care costs, it was concluded that 57% recorded improved medical-practitioner performance and 30% of patients showed a better treatment outcome. A 2008 study involving over 5000 health-care organizations in the United States showed that, while hospitals were implementing laboratory information systems at a steady rate, many lacked fully integrated administration and clinical application modules or fail-safe strategies for handling downtime events.
With regards to expenditure and costs, in Peru, digitising the entire TB Care system cost only 1% of the entire budget of the program, while having an incredibly positive impact on patient experience.
Large scale medical information systems such as the District Health Information System in South Africa collects data on a routine basis from public clinics, which helps the government paint a big picture of the current health condition of the nation.
The implementation of such a system caused a 35% increase in productivity in outpatient services.
In a recent World Health Organization Global mHealth Survey, 60% of high-income countries and 30% of low- and middle-income countries reported some use of SMS messages or other mobile health communication tools for improving treatment compliance.
The implementation of such practices results in improved health behaviours and physiological outcomes amongst patients. In a review of seven intervention studies, including four randomized trials, text messaging showed significant promise for improving adherence rates. Studies on the effectiveness of SMS messages for health promotion have also shown improvements in the outcomes of care.
Prima facie, evidence shows that e-health systems have a positive effect on a wide range of processes covered in the medical practice. It is important to remember that more studies in the field will help us understand how to address e-health architecture and match it to the current requirements of the sector.