The goal of eHealth is to improve the quality and safety of services, enhance clinical efficiency and efficacy and the value of the service to the user.
The goal is not a paperless service. That is at best a byproduct. It also suggests that ehealth is a process of “digitizing” existing services. In reality the advantages are gained when work is reimagined and the technologies are then expertly implemented.
Benefits of eHealth include:
- patient safety – patients’ demographic and clinical information is more legible, accessible and shareable, thereby giving clinicians more accurate, timely and complete data on which to base decisions
- effectiveness – clinical pathways and decision support systems can be embedded in electronic patient systems to give easy access to best practice evidence
- efficiency – more efficient work processes due to increased availability of clinical information, for example electronic transmission of prescriptions direct to the pharmacy
- patient centred – information about patient’s preferences more easily available
- timeliness – access to up-to-date information on which to base clinical decisions
- equitable – ensuring that all people have the same level of access to services
But these benefits are not guaranteed. New skills and capabilities are required to make the most of these opportunities (Nuffield Trust 2016).
The Nuffield Trust (2016) has shared some principles from organisations that have undertaken digital projects. Three key ones are:
- Change planning. The benefits can be lost because technology was imposed without consideration of its impact on working practices or workload
- Clinician buy-in. Projects need champions with active staff engagement. Pre-implementation training and user support cannot be skimped
- User - centred design. User experience must be enhanced. If end users (whether patients, clients or clinicians) have been involved in the design the chances of uptake are increased
The RCN is mapping out digital capabilities in the E-quipped for Care Framework.
Nuffield Trust (2016) Delivering the benefits of digital health care - seven lessons for success, p.19.