Public Sector Health Information Systems
This section is dedicated to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support public sector health systems in developing/transitional economies.
It addresses a series of issues of potential interest to e-government practitioners and provides solutions to such issues. These solutions were developed through a mix of research at IDPM, research in local partner institutions, and discussions on the egov4dev email list.
Public Sector Health Information Systems is the third topic in a series of topics to covered by the eGovernment for Development Information Exchange.
Understanding eHealth Projects
eHealth projects in the public sector can bring significant potential benefits at the level of individual health tasks and at the level of overall health processes, such as health policy-making or health care delivery. Adding ICTs (information and communication technologies) can make health tasks and processes cheaper, or quicker, or able to handle greater capacities, or better. It can even help new tasks and processes to be undertaken for the first time.
Alongside the benefits, though, it must be recognised that e-health also brings costs (of technology, of implementation, of staff time, of training, etc.), and that there may be downsides (such as failure, or poorer security and privacy for patient data).
There may also be informal benefits for those involved that have nothing to do with health outcomes (e.g. personal kudos, creating an appearance of doing something about health even if nothing is actually changing, or picking up skills to get a better job).
Seven newly-commissioned cases of e-health in the public sector from developing/transitional countries are provided on the Exchange. In addition, links are provided to a further nine cases available online.
From analysing these and other cases, the Exchange explains the reasons why e-health projects succeed or fail. It uses the "design-reality gap" model to identify a gap that exists for all e-health projects between the design assumptions/requirements and the reality of the client health organisation. The larger this gap between design and reality, the greater the risk that the project will fail. The smaller the gap, the greater the chance of success.
Practical Techniques for eHealth Projects
Practitioners often want to perform risk assessment. In other words, they want to understand whether their e-health project is likely to fail and, if so, why. Guidance is provided by the Exchange on how to assess risks in terms of gaps between project design and local reality. A worked example is provided to support the practical guide.
Perhaps most importantly, practitioners want help in addressing risks: in making their e-health projects more likely to succeed and less likely to fail. The Exchange provides a step-by-step guide to reducing risks by reducing the gaps between design and reality. The guide includes a real-world example.
Training and Other Resources
In addition to the resource material provided under the two headings above, the Exchange provides: a) links to other online materials on e-health (including overview papers, best practice guides, and case study reports) and b) a training guide that shows how to use the Web resources in training sessions; for example, a one-day workshop on e-health project success and failure.