By: Paul DeMuro
One need only spend a few days at an international meeting of biomedical informaticians, physicians, and other scientists to realize quite quickly that many countries across the globe are experiencing many of the same issues in their healthcare systems as we are in the United States. Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting on a panel on “E-Health’s Global Reach in the Quest for Increased Quality of Care: New Developments, Key Considerations and Consumer Health Informatics” at MedInfo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Other members of my panel were from academic institutions and/or healthcare systems in Argentina, Chile, Minnesota, and Norway.
It seemed as if many countries across the world are experiencing the financial and other stresses of trying to provide healthcare to an increasing number of individuals in a more cost-effective manner with greater quality. In addition, it is surprising how many other countries’ health systems pay providers on a fee-for-service or modified fee-for-service basis with little regard to quality. Increasingly, there is as here, a recognition that these situations are not sustainable and payments should be based on quality and cost-effectiveness—thus, payments for value.
Many of the meetings focused on E-Health, the theme for the conference, and how E-Health might facilitate the transformation of healthcare systems across the world. Telemedicine or telehealth was discussed extensively, not only as a means to provide care to those in remote areas, but also to make access available to more individuals wherever they might be located and at a cost often significantly less expensive than that would be incurred for a face-to-face encounter with a clinician. Not surprisingly, it seems as if much of telehealth is moving to smart phones, a far cry from the days of 30 or so years ago, when telehealth often meant a physician being in one location with a television monitor and a patient in another location with a different monitor.