Health IT is supporting numerous health programs in low- and middle-income countries around the world, according to a report published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, FierceHealthIT reports (Terry, FierceHealthIT, 5/4).
For the report, researchers from the not-for-profit Results for Development Institute, or R4D, analyzed an interactive database from the Center for Health Market Innovations to identify:
- Health programs in developing countries that are being supported by health IT;
- The types of technology being deployed; and
- The reasons the technology is being used (R4D release, 5/1).
In total, R4D analyzed 657 health programs in 16 countries and found that 176 were "technology enabled," meaning that they used information and communications technology to improve care. The report found that phones, computers and text messages were the most common technologies used (FierceHealthIT, 5/4).
According to the report, six major ways health programs are using health IT are to:
- Extend access to care across long distances;
- Facilitate communication between health care providers and patients;
- Improve diagnosis and treatment;
- Improve data management;
- Streamline payment processes; and
- Combat fraud and abuse (R4D release, 5/1).
The report also found that the types of health programs most likely to use health IT, in descending order, were programs that focused on:
- Emergency care;
- Mental health;
- General primary care;
- Maternal and child health; and
- HIV/AIDS (FierceHealthIT, 5/4).
Reliance on Donors Raises Sustainability Questions
According to the report, about 50% of the programs that used health IT received the majority of their funding from donors.
The report suggested that such reliance on donors could jeopardize the long-term sustainability of health IT-supported programs (R4D release, 5/1).