In their global resolutions, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have been encouraging countries to develop their national eHealth strategies. Given that the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) established the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) in 2008 to accelerate the transformation of healthcare systems in the European Union, and allocated five billion euro to see it through, one can rightly state that the future of healthcare is here to stay. Some countries have gone further in that development, while others are just starting out.
Generally, eHealth is about improving flow of information to support the management of health systems and the delivery of health services. Its strategic application by governments reflects ambitions for progress in public and individual health. However, many of such digitalisation projects run into obstacles at the implementation phase.
The big data issue
Hospitals face a growing data-sharing problem. The healthcare industry as a whole is amidst a major transition from paper-based records and manual processes to electronic health records and automated processes, which creates an environment where many clinical staff members have significant operational disruptions, in addition to dealing with the complexity of the innovative options offered by electronic health record (EHR) infrastructure.
Frequently, the term “big data” is used too freely in the sector, and ends up creating problems because it is not properly understood. This leads to many healthcare professionals panicking over the sheer magnitude of big data and the problems it creates in their daily activities, distracting focus from identifying information that can actually help improve operations.
Big data is only valuable when aligned with engineering, analytical, and managerial skills in determining the context in which to apply such data effectively.
Elements for successful strategy implementation
Alignment, the mechanism by which an organisation can visualise the relationship between its strategies and processes, is a crucial consideration for any successful project.
The various dimensions that have to liaise and function optimally are represented in the diagram below.
Successful implementation of eHealth initiatives varies by region. However, experiences reported in the National Health Service (NHS) UK point to over expenditure or budget deficits, delays, poor quality of outcomes, miscommunication, poor governance etc., as some of the obstacles.
In this 21st century trend of merging industries, where technology is no longer a mere supporting function, there is need for multi-competent individuals capable of solving the problems that are bound to arise from the touch points of the various industries involved. Such People would understand and interpret the unique perspectives, language and values of each collaborating sector.
Thus, achieving success in eHealth projects hinges on optimising these strategic alignment dimensions, which would ensure effective coordination and control of all related activities within the intersecting industries.