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 Wednesday, December 09, 2009

­Healthcare in Europe is facing major challenges in both structural reform and unavailability of resources as the region's working population is far lower in comparison to those of 'non-working' age. This calls for the introduction of new schemes in healthcare that would enable Europe to deal with issues pertaining to the growing ageing population. The involvement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in healthcare is evident from the fact that in recent years, the number of Internet users for health purposes has increased considerably. This is basically in the form of purchasing health products and services, and also for communicating with peers and healthcare professionals.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that if the key stakeholders of the healthcare sector do not adapt and align themselves to the objectives of e-healthcare, it would negatively impact the success of implementing the new system.

"Strong incentives and compensation should be provided to stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum so that they fully embrace the new e-services as part of their work," advises Frost & Sullivan ICT Programme Manager Luke Thomas. "Furthermore, proper training and guidance on client devices, systems and networks are required from the outset to avoid unnecessary teething problems in the initial phases."

E-healthcare has generally been considered an investment in ICT rather than healthcare. Hence, in order to boost investments in e-healthcare, it should be promoted as a technological revolution in healthcare that would help healthcare stakeholders to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their services.

One of the main concerns of the aged population is the fast changing technology, which often results in the reluctance to embrace new technology. If technology is made seemingly less complicated and more user-friendly, the problem of resistance from the aged in adopting the new technology could be mitigated as well.

"Due to the increase in the ageing population in Europe, the cost of healthcare is also rising exponentially," cautions Thomas. "Given the current economic downturn, hospitals in Europe are in a challenging position in terms of receiving sizeable funds from the government for e-healthcare - especially when they are not able to justify the return on investment in using these new services."

The creation of technology that is interoperable and capable of being integrated into the systems and solutions of market participants is essential for success. R&D should emphasise the creation of 'plug-in' technology into devices, systems and solutions marketed by industry leaders.

Although reimbursement and technology-related issues will remain barriers, they are not insurmountable.

"With all the benefits that e-healthcare confers, not to mention the convenience and satisfaction, more users will be gained," comments Thomas. "Ultimately, consumer demand and favourable cost-benefit ratios will continue to drive technological refinement, financial incentives and large-scale adoption."

Source: Cellular News