Washington, D.C., 20 June 2016 (PAHO/WHO) — The latest publication on the status of eHealth in the Region aims to provide an update on the progress achieved since the adoption of the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth in September 2011 by the 51st Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), through Resolution CD51.R5. The mid-term review, released in June 2016, follows the four strategic areas outlined in the previous strategy, including: support and promote public policies on eHealth; improve public health through the use of eHealth, promote and facilitate horizontal collaboration between countries; and knowledge management and digital literacy for quality care, promotion of training and health, and disease prevention.
The review also details some of the main achievements in eHealth in Latin America and Caribbean over the past few years. According to the document, 21 countries and territories are currently developing and adopting a public policy on eHealth and 11 have a national policy or strategy focused specifically on telehealth. In addition, 18 countries in the Region have legislation to protect the privacy of individual’s personal information and 9 more countries report having a legal framework that supports the electronic exchange of clinical data at the national level. The number of countries in the Region financing projects with public funds at the local and national levels is also noteworthy; the most popular of these are focused on telemedicine and electronic health records. According to the review, at least 10 countries already have a national electronic health records system that provides prompt and secure information to authorized users. In the area of Education, 16 countries have university-level training in eHealth, and the number of countries with national virtual health libraries has risen from 26 to 30. Some specific initiatives highlighted include the development of: the National eHealth Strategy Toolkit; PAHO Regional eHealth Observatory, a regional entity for the WHO Global Observatory for eHealth; Methodological recommendations for the measurement of access and use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in the Health Sector; eHealth Conversations, a project that presents the opinions of specialists on this subject; and the Evidence Informed Decision Making Network of the Caribbean (EvIDeNCe), which supports accessibility of high quality scientific publications in the English Speaking Caribbean.
Despite the progress made, there are still certain challenges facing the Region in the implementation of eHealth. According to a study conducted by WHO with the support of PAHO and ITU, one such challenge is improving organizational and technological infrastructure. This lack of critical infrastructure for development and implementation impacts big data and e-prescription projects especially. Additional research is also needed regarding the number of countries using mobile technology in the Region’s epidemiological surveillance services. Also a challenge is unique interoperability in health systems, due to a lack of integration among the existing information systems.
To address some of these challenges, PAHO and the Member States plan to work on formulating a common model for a standard or minimum dataset to support information trading between systems. PAHO and the Organization of American States (OAS) will also be working on working on a joint proposal for the Region that consolidates all electronic services, beyond the health sector. Moving forward, the strategy will focus on continuing to implement the Plan of Action and to promote and provide technical support to the countries that currently lack national strategies.
The Midterm Review of the Strategy & Plan Of Action on eHealth will be presented to Member States during the coming 158th PAHO Executive Committee during the week of June 23, 2016 and subsequently submitted to all Member States during the 55th PAHO Directing Council the week of September 26.
Pan American Health Organization. Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth: Midterm review [Internet]. 158th Executive Committee of PAHO; 20-24 June 2016; Washington, DC. Washington (DC): PAHO; 2016 (Document CE158/INF/13) [consulted 18 May 2016].