New study identifies how information technology is used to solve global health challenges

May 1, 2012

In response to the considerable challenges in providing high-quality, affordable and universally accessible care in low- and middle-income countries, policy makers, donors and program implementers are increasingly looking at the potential of e-health and m-health (the use of information communication technology for health) as a solution.

Today, Results for Development Institute published a study in the May 1 issue of the Bulletin of the demonstrating that information technology is being increasingly employed to solve some of the world's biggest health systems challenges. The study, "E-health in low- and middle-income countries: findings from the Center for Health Market Innovations," is the most comprehensive survey to date in peer reviewed literature of programs using e-health to improve the quality, accessibility, and affordability of privately delivered health care for the poor in developing countries.

The Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) maintains an interactive database that now includes nearly 1200 health programs in more than 100 developing countries. Partners in 16 countries around the world search for these programs and compile detailed profiles. The data are supplemented through literature reviews and with self-reported data supplied by the programs themselves. For this study, authors analyzed CHMI data to identify programs that are enabled by information technology, and determined what kinds of technologies are being employed, and for what purpose.

The study finds that is a fundamental component of the model for 176 of 657 health programs in the study sample. In recent years, there has been much interest in how specific technologies can improve health in the developing world, but this is the first study to use a large sample size of health programs to assess the extent to which e-health is proliferating in low- and middle-income countries and to determine how it is used.

"By identifying emerging global trends in e-health, the study provides guidance on how technologies can help solve common health systems challenges in developing countries, such as reaching patients in rural areas," said Gina Lagomarsino, Managing Director at Results for Development Institute. Lagomarsino adds, "As e-health continues to evolve, managers of programs in developing countries are turning to technology to solve a wide array of problems."

The study's findings identify options for program managers, funders, and policy makers to more effectively utilize information technologies to make good quality health care more affordable and accessible in . It highlights six ways technology is being used:

  • Extending geographical access to overcome distance between physicians and patients,
  • Facilitating communications between health workers and patients,
  • Improving diagnosis and treatment for health workers,
  • Improving data management,
  • Streamlining financial transactions, and
  • Mitigating fraud and abuse

Authors also find that despite the heightened focus around the use of text messages for health, voice and software applications are more frequently used. In addition, programs launched before recent advances in information technologies are not rapidly adopting new technologies when compared to newer programs with technology built in from the start. The study also finds that about half of programs using e-health received their primary funding from donors. This heavy reliance on donor funding could jeopardize their long-term success.

"We have found that various types of information technologies are being employed by private organizations to address key health system challenges," said Lagomarsino. "For successful implementation it is critically important that more sustainable sources of funding, greater support for the adoption of new technologies and better ways of evaluating impact are found."

Explore further: Report: New health care distribution model could save lives in developing countries

Related Stories

Report: New health care distribution model could save lives in developing countries

August 1, 2011
Each year millions of children and adults in the world's poorest countries die from lack of access to medicine and health care. A new report from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business and the George W. Bush ...

Developing health systems guidance: New series

March 6, 2012
In the first paper in a three-part series on health systems guidance, Xavier Bosch-Capblanch of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland and colleagues examine in this week's PLoS Medicine how guidance ...

Mental health of child refugees is global problem

August 11, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A recent two-part study, published online in the Lancet, highlights the urgent need for high-income countries and international agencies to contribute towards the funding of interventions to tackle the ...

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.