- Deloitte: Investment in computing infrastructure and national broadband services essential for eHealth programs in GCC
- Deloitte: GCC countries see rise in chronic and lifestyle-related diseases
4 July, 2013 - According to a Deloitte Middle East whitepaper just released, some 90% of diseases in the United Arab Emirates continue to be caused by chronic lifestyle-induced diseases and injuries. Entitled ‘Middle East public sector - National necessities: eHealth', the whitepaper sheds light on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that are facing a rise in the incidence of chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, which have accompanied improved living standards and life expectancy in recent years. At the same time, shortage of medical expertise has driven governments to send some citizens abroad for medical care at a higher cost. Faced with these challenges, GCC governments are investing heavily to reform their public healthcare sectors.
The Deloitte whitepaper discusses the opportunities and challenges tied to a national eHealth strategy as one way of improving the health of a nation, through its ability to harness the power of information technology and electronic telecommunications to generate better outcomes for patients and care providers. The whitepaper provides case studies from around the world as well as recommendations for eHealth solutions in the region, and examines what lies ahead for the sector.
“The secret to success in implementing eHealth systems is how well they are integrated and how well the implementation is incrementally phased,” said Abdelhamid Suboh, consulting partner and Public Sector leader at Deloitte Middle East. “With such a complex large scale initiative, governments and clients need to think carefully about how to break down the implementation into programs, how these programs are inter-dependent, and how to sequence/phase the implementation of these programs.”
One method of harnessing eHealth is through a national electronic health record (EHR), according to Deloitte healthcare experts. The EHR replaces the traditional pen and paper or standalone systems approaches and should cut down on error. With an EHR, every patient in the healthcare system has one electronic record that can be transmitted seamlessly and shared by every healthcare provider in the system. The primary benefit of an eHealth system is improved patient health but there are also direct and indirect benefits to the health system in general, such as a decrease in hospital readmissions, reduced waiting times due to better coordination of information and improved health system planning.
“While the costs of implementing an eHealth system can be significant, there should be long-term cost savings due to the efficiencies, greater workforce productivity, and better management of resources that such a system should generate,” adds Suboh.
The Deloitte Middle East whitepaper also includes a case study of a GCC nation that has allocated a large part of its healthcare budget to enhance healthcare services and in particular the delivery of eHealth. A key part of this strategy is the introduction of EHR, as well as the equipping of hospitals and clinics with hospital information systems and enterprise resource planning.
Challenges and key recommendations for implementing eHealth in the region include:
• Investment in computing infrastructure and national broadband services
• Making the business case: planning and consultation
• Information protection, privacy and security
• Execution and requisite skills
• Implementation of better plans allowing breakdown into smaller, manageable components
Once an eHealth system is in place, the whitepaper suggests that the next great challenge is to think about adoption and making use of the considerable investment. At this point it is vital to take into consideration the needs of the different end users. As the Deloitte Middle East whitepaper cautions, the ‘one size fits all' approach does not work in this scenario.
“This is why it is important to have a thorough planning and consultation stage, in which all stakeholders are consulted before implementation,” comments Suboh. “Regional governments must continue to invest in the sector and mechanisms need to be put in place to encourage care providers who will be connected to an eHealth system to invest in the implementation and maintenance of computing infrastructure.”