There is no doubt as to the tremendous potential of eHealth to redefine healthcare by increasing access, improving the quality of care, saving lives and saving costs. In a $6 trillion industry, where one in every ten dollars worldwide is spent on healthcare, the value to governments, business and consumers alike is huge. But eHealth is failing to deliver on that promise or capture that value. Despite a large number of successful pilots across developed and emerging markets, the tipping point has not arrived. Could B2C (business-to-consumer) models and a patient-centric approach be the answer?

  • Healthcare systems are complex, multi-stakeholder environments, slow-moving and conservative. The ICT sector is an additional stakeholder with a different culture, values and developmental time-scales.
  • There are plenty of anecdotes and good stories but little scientific evidence based on studies. Stakeholder-centered evidence of the value of eHealth to each participant in the chain is vital to release funding, reallocate resources and take eHealth to scale.
  • Concerted regulatory efforts in both healthcare and ICT sectors are necessary to ensure standardization, interoperability, data confidentiality and quality of service. Balanced regulation will protect ground-roots innovation.
  • eHealth is a jungle of devices, formats, models and technologies, from cloud to SMS. Applications and services must consider differences of demography, economy, lifestyle and connectivity across and within emerging and developed markets.
  • Constructive cross-sector, multi-stakeholder dialogue is needed to develop sustainable regional or national eHealth strategies. Collective efficiency through a national eHealth architecture is more important than ongoing isolated pockets of excellence.
  • Concentrate on consumer/patient/end-user as readier to accept innovation, clearer on personal benefits, often largely paying for healthcare (directly or indirectly) and a huge potential market from health status monitoring apps to personal eHealth records.
  • High mobile penetration rates enable a new approach to healthcare focusing on preventative and curative applications, such as health literacy, management of lifestyle and non-communicable diseases.
  • Providing more care at the home rather than the hospital; use technology to move the data instead of moving people from place to place.
  • Innovations are easier to put in place in developing countries than in developed markets where regulation tends to preserve the status quo.
  • Potential business models include:
    • Traditional public-private partnership model.
    • Large national hospital as nucleus, leveraging existing patient structure, payment systems, knowledge, content and volume.
    • Horizontal integration of telco as micro health insurer.
    • Creation of a new interdisciplinary field combining medical and ICT professionals.
  • Education is vital: from basic literacy and e-skills, to health literacy, system integration, and eHealth on medical syllabus.