Tuesday, 18 November, 2008

E-health and E-learning

Resource generation

The growth of e-health services has given rise to the need for a new breed of healthcare professionals, healthcare administrators and healthcare technologists.

This industry needs people who can understand any two of healthcare, business and technology. Historically the healthcare industry has been the last adopter of technology, the same has been the case with healthcare education. Even till today, many of the medical, dental, nursing, pharmacology and other healthcare degrees do not have courses on information technology; ecommerce is only a far cry from reality. Courses in hospital and health administration have increased in the last 5 years or so.
When the e-health services industry started about 3 year ago, companies relied heavily on people already employed by hospitals and on people employed by other similar companies. The industry has grown to such a size that people from non-healthcare backgrounds are being recruited and trained. Interestingly, a lot of youngsters with traditional healthcare degrees such as MBBS and BDS are exploring career options in healthcare administration.
The irony of this trend is that the need for basic healthcare facilities in rural areas is going to get even worse than it currently is. As technology is pervading more into our education system, learning is becoming “anywhere and anytime”.
E-learning enables students to study and appear for exams at their convenience from any place they want to, as long as they have a good internet connection. Some forward thinking companies such as Medvarsity have started offering healthcare courses to healthcare students and practitioners. It is helping medical students to prepare for higher studies through online courses.

Health care players and their key information needs


Patient

A patient can be defined as a person who receives medical examination, treatment, guidance or care from a health care professional. The contact between the patient and the health care services initiates the process of care. The patient is therefore the most important party in the health care system. A patient needs knowledge about basic health issues, access to information specifically relevant to his/her condition, awareness of health system and the options available.


Practitioner

The practitioner is any healthcare professional and is distinguished from a provider. The patient gets in touch with the physician (general practitioner or specialist) for consultation, which may include medical investigations, treatment or supervision of the plan of care. In e-health, it is practitioners who are engaged with clients or other practitioners in the delivery of health care. A practitioner needs access to best, up-to-date medical knowledge available pertaining to their patients.


Provider

Include healthcare service providers (hospitals, medical and academic research institutions), diagnostic equipment providers, informatics and computer suppliers, professional associations, health management organizations, insurance companies, the Ministry of Health, Communications (or equivalent) and pharmaceutical companies. A provider needs expertise to promote and sustain healthy life and social practices among its clientele. In a triangle, all the three sides are essential to complete the whole. Similarly in healthcare services all the three key players are vital. As e-health is the result of convergence of telecommunication, information and health care technologies, technology in general turns out to be the linking factor between these three key players. Successful implementation of e-health requires clear understanding of the roles these three are expected to play. Hence development of certain protocols and strict adherence to them becomes essential

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