eHealth system can effectively improve health services and sustain good climate
eHealth is related to Health Information Technology. It has a broad range of usage from electronic processes and communication to health informatics to internet utilization in the health sector. The term dates back to at least 1999.
[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /]Two groups of eHealth applications can be considered on broad levels; the use of technology for telemedicine and/or virtual visits such as video consultations, remote diagnostics, telehomecare, and the other is the use of electronic documentation of health services such as electronic health records, electronic prescriptions, surveillance systems. Now a part of eHealth has been developed i.e. mobile health (mHealth).
It has been found that eHealth has enhanced the quality and efficiency of care, and access to care in far off places, and it has decreased the erroneous treatments. Results from UK Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) program supported the utilization of eHealth system. Introductory outcomes showed that there are 15% less visits to emergency rooms, 20% less emergency admissions, 14% less elective admissions, 14% less bed days and 45% less mortality for patients with chronic heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.
eHealth has also found potential in preventing fatal adverse drug reactions (ADRs). These ADRs are the cause of 5-13% of all hospital admissions in the developed countries and 90% of these are considered as preventable.
eHealth has also found potential in increasing the communication between the health care providers from not only different states but also across different countries.
For elders and chronically ill people, it is a blessing that they got therapeutic strategies while they remain in their homes through telemedicine.
However, in the developing and under developed countries eHealth needs a lot of work. Health care is one of the most unaffordable and inaccessible services for disadvantaged people in far off places in poorly developed countries and this could be the reason that we are still unable to break the relation between the poverty and bad or poor health.
One of the examples for health care provision in poor and remote areas have been found in the satellite based Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network (AFHCAN) that works for Alaskan indigenous population.
Estonia is one of the countries which have developed the eHealth system in the recent time. The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs launched a new concept of eHealth in 2005, which combined four separate solutions i.e. electronic health records, digital images, digital registration, and digital prescriptions.
Poor countries have to make more investments in the eHealth sector. In order to cope with the health related issues, we have to increase the knowledge, awareness and preparedness among the public, and we have to find the volunteers and health workers, who can work in that particular community.
Lack of experience and complex geographical localities make it difficult to develop eHealth system effectively.
eHealth is now also considered as the promising technology in the reduction of emission rates from “green information and communication technology (ICT)” utilization. However, there is very limited acceptance of eHealth, especially in developing countries and under-developed countries.
Technology, capacity and politics often hindered the development of eHealth. We have to cover these things as much as possible as eHealth could help us in coping with the health related issues related to the climate change. It could also help us in working against the diseases which are related to the environment. According to the 2006 ‘WHO Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environment’, 85 of 102 investigated diseases are related to the environment.
We can see the examples of UK National Health Service and the New South Wales initiatives in Australia as they have started tasks to deal in the health sector while the climate is constantly changing.
Telemedicine is found to be effectively reducing the greenhouse gas emissions as there is reduced travel and transportation. It has been estimated that the telemedicine service at UC Davis, California, caused the savings of 4.7 million miles of travel and a reduction of 1,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions while serving 13,000 outpatients in a 5 years period. Similarly, in Canada it has been found that 120 million km of travelling and 33.220 tonnes of associated GHG emissions were saved annually by replacing the 11 million home visits by nurses with the telecare.
One of the best solutions for implementing eHealth services, in the developed or under developed countries, is that the Governments have to include eHealth in their policy documents. Another important point is to implement goals according to the particular regions and it should be avoided that the goals of one country are implemented on another. However, global standards in infrastructure and services will allow new solutions without unnecessary extra costs.
Åsa Holmner, Joacim Rocklöv, Nawi Ng and Maria Nilsson, (2012). Climate change and eHealth: a promising strategy for health sector mitigation and adaptation. Global Health Action, doi: 10.3402/gha.v5i0.18428