How to have sustainable eHealth

A new report combines the expertise of 39 leading health executives, into a general guide on how to run a successful and sustainable eHealth project.

The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) must harness the wisdom of crowds to achieve success, according to an international report on similar projects around the world. 

The first group of consumers whose participation is essential to drive eHealth’s success are the baby boomers, according to the report, who “already bank and book holidays online, and are starting to ask why they can’t book a doctor’s appointments and review health information in the same way”.

Based on interviews with 39 international leaders in the fields of health management, health policy and eHealth, Accelerating Innovation: the power of the crowd presents the lessons learned from successful eHealth projects in Singapore, Denmark, Canada, Hong Kong, the UK and the US.

The report lists three ‘essential conditions’ for a successful and sustainable transition to a health system that leverages the power of information technology: “crowd accelerated innovation, collaborative alignment and creative dislocation”.

“Crowd accelerated innovation suggests that eHealth becomes more sustainable based on the size of the program and breadth of stakeholder adoption,” the report says, as seen in ‘crowdsourced’ ventures such as Wikipedia, or the collaborative project to sequence of the human genome, in which a large number of participants all shared a well-defined common goal.

Aligning the interests of all community and health industry stakeholders is also essential to the sustainability of eHealth projects, according to the report, as is ‘creative dislocation’ – making sure members of the public and health professionals are prepared to let go of whatever old systems or technologies the new electronic system will replace. 

“[…] Our research also shows that, almost regardless of the underlying market characteristics, building a successful and efficient eHealth system comes down to the strength of strategic planning, the communication of a clear vision and the ability to harness professionals,” the report concludes.

About 60 per cent of the health executives interviewed for the report believed that patient expectations would be the number one driver of eHealth uptake, closely followed by the promise of increased efficiency.

KPMG Australia’s healthcare lead healthcare spokesperson, Shane Soloman, emphasised that members of the public were all potential patients that would use the system.

“Today’s smartphone user is tomorrow’s patient who wants greater access and control of their healthcare and their medical records,” Mr Solomon said in a statement.

“And, along with patients, tech-savvy clinicians need to be seen not as a force to be won over, but as a catalyst for change.”

Mr Solomon said successful projects that had featured the three ‘essential conditions’ included the Care Connectivity Consortium (CCC) in the US, Singapore’s National Electronic Health Record system (NEHR) and Denmark’s eHealth portal, www.Sundhed.dk.

“Australia is on the brink of commencing implementation of its own Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR),” he added. 

“However complete implementation it still a long way off and will require doctor and patient engagement; system upgrades; and committed collaboration between stakeholders – that is harnessing the power of the crowd.”

In most cases however, “electronic health projects have lost momentum or collapsed under their own complexity”, the KPMG statement warns.

“The case for eHealth has never been more compelling, yet its performance has never been more mixed,” Mr Soloman added. “eHealth systems do not develop in isolation. Planners must ensure that the right environment has been created to support the transformation.”  

NEHTA is also included in the report as a brief case study, which details some early successes achieved by the authority, such as providing “leadership and a national focus on implementing eHealth”.

An ‘eHealth Diagnostic Test’ is included at the end of the report, to allow executives to gauge their own project in terms of long term sustainability, against the indicators contained in the report. 

Accelerating Innovation: the power of the crowd was published in March by KPMG International and the Manchester Business School.

Tags: e-health, ehealth, nehta, pcehr, technology,

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