eHealth

Proving to be an innovative approach in the provision of health information and health care internationally, eHealth uses existing globally recognised e-technologies to provide and support health care delivery without any boundaries.

The provision of eHealth tools will enable communities and health professionals, regardless of geographical location, time of day and personal circumstances, to achieve better health care.

With the introduction of the Primary Health Care Strategy by the Ministry of Health, six key directions were identified for achieving a new vision in primary health care:

  • Work with local communities and enrolled populations
  • Identify and remove health inequalities
  • Offer access to comprehensive services to improve, maintain and restore people’s health
  • Co-ordinate care across service areas
  • Develop the primary health care workforce
  • Continuously improve quality, using reliable information

Silber (2003, p.3) identified four main areas where eHealth can provide opportunities in the provision of health information and care.

Clients

  • Utilise email as a means of communication with health professionals.
  • Second opinion consultations
  • Virtual reality which could enable the client to access web sites and acquaint themselves with procedures or environments
  • Health smart cards could contain complete patient health history for medical practitioners to provide the correct care
  • Health information portals and self management tools to enable clients to access information online at their own convenience to assist with independent decision making
  • Video link up sites at maraes, community centers or local small libraries, enabling a virtual visit from health professionals

Primary Care

Primary care objectives with eHealth technologies are to increase accuracy of information and ensure the information is sent immediately on discharge to allow seamless care.

eHealth technologies can assist in primary care by:

  • Sending electronic records to Personal Digital Assistants frequently used by registered nurses
  • Providing patients with appointment information for specialists or their general practitioner
  • Exploring the possibility of prescriptions being emailed to a rural location.
  • Enabling immediate appointment scheduling with the relevant practitioner immediately
  • Internet for accessing specialist knowledge
  • Video/Photo phones where wounds, skin abrasions or rashes could be scanned and emailed for consultation
  • Telehealth for delivering of nursing care with a computerised decision support system to triage client's concerns
  • Providing valuable websites for Practice Nurses that include communication possibilities, discussion boards and current research for improved diagnoses
  • Offering professional education by computer, virtual reality or podcasts

At Home Care

Home care services delivered by health professionals to those who have appropriate technology in their own homes could be “virtual visiting.” This technology utilises photo phones, video or computers to visit those ‘sick at home’ elderly or those at home for health reasons. This information technology would allow the health professional to ‘virtually visit’ therefore keeping this vulnerable population safe and supported. An added benefit could be support of the caregivers resulting in some alleviation of stress. A health practitioner visiting this population could have immediate access to specialist advice if the need arose.

A home monitoring system which transports vital signs and statistics, through a computer, directly to the health care professional This innovative technology could be utilized to allow those with chronic or palliative conditions to remain in their own homes if this is what they choose to do, still allowing them access to the quality service offered by their health professional.

Hospitals

  • Electronic health records which could be accessed by those needing this information such as Doctors, nurses and other health professionals, thus reducing the possibility of repeated treatments or tests
  • Electronic messaging which could deliver the above personal health information within the hospital and out to other organizations which have input into a particular client health care e.g. Hospice, Rest Homes or Retirement villages
  • Electronic messaging and video linking to and from rural and remote areas to reduce travel for client to a specific geographical area but will still allow access to specialized care through the video link.
  • Professional development for health professionals - either international or national.