- Dissecting the outcomes of eHealth projects and finance of project implementation
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Nov. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The African eHealth Economics Forum, Cape Town, which forms part of The Global Health Economics Series, was held recently at the One & Only Hotel. The forum focused on three major elements of eHealth projects; assessment of eHealth projects, financial aspects of project implementation and economics of mobile health.
One of the biggest challenges of eHealth project implementation is the complexity of tracking success of pilot projects and presenting benefits to key stakeholders and key healthcare providers. Healthcare delivery is a complex process and eHealth interventions have been cited to have been lost in this complexity.
"Although many African countries have formally adopted eHealth policies, very scant progress has been made in terms of project implementation," noted Frost & Sullivan's Healthcare Industry Analyst Tionotenda Sachikonye. "In the past five years, a significant majority of eHealth and telemedicine projects in Africa have failed to take off, and 80% of the active projects are still at the pre-implementation/trial stage, many years after project initiation. South Africa alone has spent between R4-R6 billion on eHealth pilot projects. Progress has been made, however, as South Africa is starting to quantify benefits of eHealth interventions, which will go a long way in presenting cost effectiveness of eHealth interventions."
An area of contention in the healthcare sector is whether eHealth interventions are the solution to the public healthcare delivery systems which are in disarray on the continent. While some argue for the fundamentals in public healthcare to be understood and rectified, others propose that eHealth may be the necessary bridge required for cost effective healthcare to be delivered, whilst complex problems within healthcare systems are addressed.
Despite eHealth infrastructure being in place in some countries in the region, some pilots have failed to get to implementation stage due to lack of Government buy-in. Government buy-in and political commitment are crucial to the success of eHealth projects.
Although Africa has been cited as being at the tipping point for eHealth interventions with, amongst other factors; high mobile penetration, better diagnostic capabilities and cost of information technology decreasing, financial aspects of implementing eHealth projects remain an issue.
Sachikonye echoes that "Innovative partnerships forged between public and private players will go a long way in driving viability of project implementation. Improvements for public private partnerships mentioned in the forum were for private sector participants to not impose solutions on government systems, but rather to align themselves with national strategies and plans to see where they can implement eHealth solutions."
Governments were also urged to leverage on the partnerships by passing some risk to industry instead of carrying the risk burden, as well as implementing robust monitoring and evaluation systems ensuring that partners are accountable for meeting their targets.
Although several cost savings may be realised from eHealth interventions, sustainability of eHealth projects remains a major concern. Only a few sustainable projects are in operation within the private sector, limited mainly to health and wellness programmes amongst the mining conglomerates.
In conclusion, the lack of viable business cases remains a major obstacle to full roll-out of eHealth and telemedicine services. And an understanding of the economics of mhealth, therefore, will allow for better positioning of services to be rolled out to deliver cost effective healthcare to all citizens.
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