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ICT and Health: Breaking the Access Barrier

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Published: Tue, 10 Oct 2017

  • Rifat-Ues-Sayeed

Introduction:

Information and communication technologies (ICTs), electronic health (eHealth), and mobile health (mHealth) are more or less works at the same direction for improvement of health services. New emerging technologies are offering ways of improving the standard of healthcare services especially in the developing world (1). Healthcare development efforts in the last two decades have brought advancement in quality of medical services and healthcare systems. With the help of information technology development countries are improving the healthcare system by spending a lot of resources (2).

Study objective

How ICTs helping in breaking the access barrier of different healthcare service.

Methodology

The database and websites like Google, PubMed and Google Scholar were searched electronically by using expended keywords for relevant published and gray literature regarding the topic ICTs and health: breaking the access barrier. The search words which were used are ICTs, ICTs and health, ICTs barrier in health sector development etc. Total 13 articles were gathered and reviewed and only 10 articles were cited in this scientific literature review.

Findings and Discussions:

For professionals access to health information is a requirement to meet the MDGs and achieve Health for All. Short of access to information stays as a one of the main barrier in developing countries to knowledge-based health care (like as in many parts of the ‘developed’ world). Effective use of ICTs promises to change the situation for health workers. For example one attempt was taken by WHO and UNDP in India to improve the access to information (3).

In developing countries Health workers in primary health care are often isolated. They work often alone, in remote settings with fewer amounts of information of the recent times and opportunities with which they found minimum chance to exchange experiences with colleagues. This situation is starting to change in favor to improve health workers and make better use of present technologies and learn to be a user of those new technologies. In Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, Satellite providing guide to use a personal digital assistants (PDAs) – small handheld devices that helps a health worker in remote settings to obtain information; capture data, store data and share data; and link it to the other colleagues to improve their works and the outcomes for their patients(3).

With the aim of minimizing natural disasters and its adverse effects a project with disaster management centre was established at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy in India. Control rooms across the state fully computerized and a VSAT- and VHF-based communications network but geographical information system (GIS)-based and area-specific, disaster management center. It Is designed to help in case of natural calamities and made exit plan, evacuation activities, locate resources which could be sent in the affected areas more easily and more quickly, to identify facilities with potential disaster management function where needed, and help in getting international medical and managerial support. Backed by DFID, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme, the project has apparently completed in all the states in all districts. It has health implications most are important because of the disaster frequencies such as cyclones and as earthquakes in the areas and their effects in the form of damage and outbreak (4).

ICTs can play a role in health communications like providing the disease information to poor people or information about disease prevention. Many diseases are in the process of ICT interventions; malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS. Like in Africa, The Uganda Health Information Network (UHIN) is alarming the people about the increment of communicable diseases with the help of PDAs (___).

Quality health information and education impart well-being of a family and community. There are many illustrations of ICT use for educating, engaging and informing the community about reproductive health/family planning, HIV/AIDS, others and availability of health services. There are programs that use Short message system(SMS) and text messaging to reach the actual community (___). ICT are now being applied to help and support or advance reproductive health and family planning in many African countries like Uganda Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia and Kenya. Mobile technology are used more in health system to strengthen approach towards local needs in addition to support national & global health program initiatives such as the the Global Health Initiative, MDGs and PEPFAR.

Conclusions:

Various prevalent ICTs (radio, television, phones, mobile, and computers) are fully integrated into family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and other health interventions. Their function usually depends on the electrical power supply. Only a stable power supply can run personal computers, with Internet access and email which are currently available in a smaller amount in the remote areas. And for barrier like not having computer literacy, appropriate infrastructure, and expenditure current digital and mobile ICTs for health services cannot be accelerated.

Recommendations:

  1. Where access to ICTs is weak, then inclusion of the public in the formation of the suitable mechanisms for consultation.
  2. In order to maintain the efficiencies of ICT systems need to develop and upgrade its capacity at least for developing countries for a sustainable service.
  3. As the change in ICTs happening with the pace of the world workers involve with it also need to update their skills and learn the upgraded approaches even at the highest levels
  4. Training programmes needed to get an effective output with the use of ICTs such as how to use mobile phone, PDAs computer and internet.
  5. For a positive development in the societies equal access of poor peoples to ICTs is must.

It is quite clear that the technology is virtually helping communities but we need to be flexible to support for the development in health

References:

  1. Usaid, AIDSTAR-Two. The Use of Information and Communication Technology in Family Planning, Reproductive Health, and Other Health Programs: A Review of Trends and Evidence. 2011;
  2. Burney a, Mahmood N, Abbas Z. Information and communication technology in healthcare management systems: prospects for developing countries. Int J … [Internet]. 2010;4(2):27–32. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/45197872_Information_and_Communication_Technology_in_Healthcare_Management_Systems_Prospects_for_Developing_Countries/file/79e415136cfaf31bdb.pdf
  3. McConnell RR, Shields T, Drury P, Kumekawa J, Louw J, Fereday G, et al. Improving health, connecting people: the role of ICTs in the health sector of developing countries A framework paper. Infodev [Internet]. 2006;(7):1–65. Available from: http://www.infobridge.org/asp/documents/3254.pdf
  4. Chandrasekhar CP. Information and communication technologies and health in low income countries: The potential and the constraints. World Heal Organ Bull World Heal Organ [Internet]. 2001;79(9):850–5. Available from: http://search.proquest.com/docview/229626476?accountid=14468nhttp://wx7cf7zp2h.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info:ofi/enc:UTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/ProQ:abiglobal&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.jtitle=World+Health+Organization.+Bulletin+of+the+World+Health+Organization&rft.atitle=Information+and+communication+technologies+and+health+in+low+income+countries:+The+potential+and+the+constraints&rft.au=Chandrasekhar,+C+P&rft.aulast=Chandrasekhar
  5. Fromm C, Kapadia F, Molla DS, Sherwood E, Mahdi AR. ICT in Health for Development A white paper commissioned by UNDESA-GAID. 2009;(December).
  6. Burney a, Mahmood N, Abbas Z. Information and communication technology in healthcare management systems: prospects for developing countries. Int J … [Internet]. 2010;4(2):27–32. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/45197872_Information_and_Communication_Technology_in_Healthcare_Management_Systems_Prospects_for_Developing_Countries/file/79e415136cfaf31bdb.pdf
  7. Working CIS, No P, Fellows M. Literature Review on the Impact of Public Access to Information and Communication Technologies. 2009;27.
  8. eLAC. ICT and Health. Newsletter. 2010;(12):12.
  9. Gillwald A, Milek A, Stork C. Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa. Policy [Internet]. 2010;1:1–39. Available from: http://researchictafrica.net/publications/Towards_Evidence-based_ICT_Policy_and_Regulation_-_Volume_1/RIA Policy Paper Vol 1 Paper 5 – Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa 2010.pdf
  10. Shields T, Chetley A, Davies J. Improving Health , Connecting People : the role of ICT in the Health Sector in Developing Countries. 2007;1–26.

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