A broad analysis of ehealth initiatives from around the world reveals a similar set of goals. The challenges, however, are numerous and varied.

The healthcare industry has a supply and demand problem. To cope, organisations are increasingly turning to digital initiatives to change the delivery of healthcare services.

“Chief Economist reports tell us in the next 30 years GDP in most regions will need to double just to stand still and provide the same levels of care that we do today for future generations,” Mike Jones, Research Director at Gartner, said during a presentation at the Gartner Symposium earlier this week.

“Many governments have realised that the existing models of healthcare are not sustainable at this level of demand versus supply. Many of them are focused on the use of digital technologies to help reform their healthcare systems.”

Gartner analysed 35 global ehealth initiatives and identified a common aim across the programs to drive new models of healthcare.

“They are there to support health system reform, creating integrated service delivery methods,” Jones said.

The most common objective, present in 85 of cases, was delivering a birth-to-death digital health record for patients.

“It sounds very simple but it is horrendously complex,” Jones said.

“Bringing information from many different healthcare systems [that have] different structures, different data formats, different approaches to sharing and governance is extremely problematic to deliver. But without that the rest of the objectives almost become unachievable.”

83 per cent of the programs were focused on increasing the level of digital maturity within all of the health organisations.

The other four objectives found in more than half of the programs were focused on patient ownership of data, big data and analytics platforms, open architectures and open standards for interoperability and developing new citizen services for individuals like the ability to access their records online.

Gartner, eHealth

Gartner also conducted CIO roundtables in four countries to find out what were the biggest inhibitors facing these ehealth programs.

“We didn’t just get a top five, we got over 30 different unique responses,” Jones said.

Challenges ranged from outdated IT systems and misaligned incentives to tribalism, the mentality that services needed to be “built here.”

“In a few regions we found three or four different EHR [electronic health record] portals were being created in a particular region. Nobody could agree on which one to use or to create a single one.”

Gartner’s research identified the need for strong digital-savvy leadership, a focus on open architectures to break down silos and, good governance. Jones also recommended CIOs focus on architecting a “multi-sided platform” which is able to connect disparate data sources controlled by different entities with an ecosystem of services.

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