Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 19, 2012

The National eHealth Strategy Toolkit Now Available for Review

Ever wonder if, given the integral relationship between modern medicine and information and communications technology (ICT), there is a vision and roadmap for how the two can work better in unison to improve the lives of everyone around the world? Wonder no more.

Just released is the National eHealth Strategy Toolkit. It was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), who have a long-standing close working relationship. 

The authors state that the National eHealth Strategy Toolkit is: 

“An expert, practical guide that provides governments, their ministries and stakeholders with a solid foundation and method for the development and implementation of a national eHealth vision, action plan and monitoring framework. All countries, whatever their level of development, can adapt the Toolkit to suit their own circumstances.

Representing one of the most significant collaborations in recent years between the World Health Organization and the International Telecommunication Union, the Toolkit is a landmark in understanding what eHealth is, what it can do, and why and how it should be applied to health care today.”

The Toolkit has 3 main parts, each divided into a number of chapters addressing specific issues:

Part 1: Establishing a national eHealth vision – with chapters including national contexts for eHealth, engaging with stakeholders, drafting an initial vision, and gathering information on the eHealth environment.

Part 2: Developing a national eHealth action plan – with chapters including developing eHealth action lines, determining high-level resource requirements, applying funding constraints to refine plans, and defining implementation phases.

Part 3: Monitoring and evaluation – with chapters including developing an eHealth monitoring and evaluation framework, defining baseline and target measures for indicators, and defining supporting governance and processes.

It is made up of components which can be introduced and strengthened through the implementation of an eHealth Strategy:

It should be noted that the intent of the document is not just do bring the health and ICT sectors closer together. In fact, there is encouragement that it be used to energize a wider range of stakeholders, including the general public, particularly since the subject is rife with public policy challenges including the treatment of social justice and equity issues. 

There is a line in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where in regard to the use of the term “parlay” Said Captain Barbossa: “The code is more what you'd call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” While very comprehensive, especially for a document of this nature, WHO and the ITU were very careful to call this a toolkit whose recommendations are to be used more as guidelines than as rules. 

For anyone interested in eHealth this is an absolute must read. It is also suggested for even more information on this subject that you should examine the workshop materials of the Joint ITU-WHO Workshop on e-Health Standards and Interoperability that was held Geneva, 26-27 April 2012.  

Edited by Braden Becker

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