E-health - Introduction
|The World Health Organisation defines e-health as “the combined use of electronic communication and information technology in the health sector”.
The term therefore covers a range of quite distinct activities and services. It includes the use of electronic communications for allowing health professionals to contact each other (for example, for the interpretation of an image), electronic billing under Medicare, and the production, storage and use of electronic patient health records.
Overall, then, ‘e-health’ is about providing the right health information to the right person at the right place and time in a secure electronic form.
It includes the systems required to make online information available to consumers about preventive health and provide them with practical support for self-management of chronic conditions, in consultation with their doctor, as well as those that can help provide continuing professional development for health practitioners. It also includes the information systems that will allow for the more standardised and automated collection and reporting of health data.
In future, the electronic patient records normally kept by health professionals could become the source of summary information such as on allergies and current medications so that a patient, their GP and their specialist all have a current record when a change to the treatment regime is made, or when the patient is discharged from hospital. A shared summary electronic health record would increase the safety and effectiveness of treatment and minimise the potential for errors to occur for many older people and people with chronic conditions who see a number of different health professionals. It could also provide a useful starting point for a patient seeing a health professional for the first time or in emergency, without the patient having to know and remember all the details themself.
Because of its potential for helping to overcome the effects of distance, people living in rural areas stand to benefit substantially from e-health in its various guises. However rural and remote communities have the poorest infrastructure and thus a limited capacity to access and make use of e-health applications.
It is because of this mix of major opportunity and reduced capacity that the Alliance has a strong interest in e-health. It has developed a position paper on the rural and remote implications of a national e-health strategy and has set goals to ensure people in rural and remote communities are not only informed but involved in the development and implementation of e-health solutions for the future.
You can help by contributing information and views to this e-health website. Have your say or send us case studies of e-health applications that are working well in rural and remote communities so we can share and learn from each other’s experience.
Follow the development of broadband and electronic communications including telehealth in rural and remote communities.
Help improve our understanding of progress towards shared individual electronic health records.
We would also welcome comments about this web page or the Alliance publications, consultations and submissions we post on it.