The move from eHealth to meHealth
eHealth can and should provide options for how stakeholders (consumers, care givers and healthcare managers) manage and interact with the healthcare system across geographic and health sector environs. That said, if there is anywhere that Capital I Innovation is essential, I believe it is in the field of eHealth.
The term eHealth has become nigh on ubiquitous. And yet, it is somewhat nebulous, as it can be perceived as being perceptively less than personal. meHealth, however, is different. It demands that I, you, we, take it upon ourselves to take responsibility.
Responsibility for what?
Responsibility to expect and demand that all healthcare stakeholders at the local, regional and national – and, dare I say, international – level to work together to ensure that affordable, effective healthcare is available to one and all.
e-Health uses the internet and related communication technologies to improve healthcare delivery, collaboration, diagnostics and treatments, while reducing errors and costs.
Thus far most arguments for eHealth take-up have relied upon Web 2.0 solutions such as MedHelp, MyGP, patientslikeme and Hello Health - each excellent initiatives. Unfortunately, these arguments for adoption, though interesting, have not been compelling enough to engender a rush towards mass adoption, at least not by healthcare service providers. But, with the advent of Web 3.0 solutions, this situation should soon change. It must. However, this will only happen if all stakeholders take on the responsibility of demanding the change; this is the time for the change to meHealth.
In my recent conversation with ‘father of the internet’ Vint Cerf, we discussed eHealth. Vint remarked ,
“From my point of view, there is no doubt that having records which are sharable, at least among physicians, would be a huge help. When people go in to be examined, they often have to repeat their medical histories. They don’t get it right every time, they forget stuff. Yet the doctors are not in a great position to service a patient without having good background information. I am very much in favour of getting those kinds of records online.
If we were able to harness the electronic healthcare system to provide incentives for people to respond to chronic conditions, which are generally the worst problems we have in healthcare – whether its heart disease, diabetes, cancer, [obesity] – to take better care of themselves, then we would reduce a lot of the system costs, simply because we had a more healthy population.”
Unsurprisingly, I agree with Vint. However, regardless of how involved individuals are in bettering their meHealth, we cannot ignore the fact that pressure on the healthcare industry is rapidly increasing, as is the cost of provision. It is in this area where new technologies can be of great import by enabling the healthcare sector to operate as an effectively co-ordinated, interconnected system, which:
- Lowers costs and eliminate wastage of time and effort
- Lowers costs on families and communities supporting the elderly
- Enables integrated healthcare delivery systems
- Consolidates medical records/services
- Enables the viewing and following of healthcare processes
- Enables single points of contact, self service and self help
- Ensures cost and service level transparency
- Enables disparate IT systems and processes to connect and co-ordinate with each other
- Supports vast consumer and care provider populations
- Removes duplication of healthcare efforts, expenditure and solutions
- Enables confidential electronic information to be securely and seamlessly accessed and shared, by the right person at the right place and time, regardless of their urban, suburban, rural or remote location
- Enables effective co-ordination and oversight of national E-Health activities
- Supports informed policy, investment and research decisions
- Enables secure flexibility within mobile services, using such tools as PDAs and VOIP processes
- Reduces errors and inefficiencies
All the above points are important, but the final one may be the most vital of all. Why?
Because in Australia, in 2010, approximately $3 billion was wasted in avoidable annual expenditure. Australia has a population of over 22.5 million, the US has a population of nearly 311 million and China has a population of over 1.3 billion – you do the math.
Do you need more convincing? How about this. Annually in the US approximately 225,000 people die as a result of erroneous medical treatments and hundreds of thousands are made worse by being misdiagnosed or given inappropriate treatment. Added to that, the costs of medical problems caused over 60% of all personal bankruptcies filed in 2007. These are just a few of the reasons why reducing, if not eliminating, errors and inefficiencies is imperative.
I think most of us are agreed that making these changes would be a good thing. So how do we do it? Its a big ask I know. And yet, it must, and can, be done. What is needed is a plan, and here is my To Do List. I welcome any and all who are interested in moving this debate forward to add to this list.
In next week’s post, we will look at eHealth and meHealth from the perspective of patient advocate ePatient Dave.