ICT in health services

ICT in health service.

Information technology coursework- 1ST draft

Improving the health of individuals and communities, and strengthening health systems, disease detection and prevention are crucial to development and poverty

reduction. ICTs have the potential to impact almost every aspect of the health sector. In public health, information management and communication processes are pivotal, and are facilitated or limited by available ICTs.

ICT-Information and Communications Technology is a study or business of developing and using technology to process information and aid communications. ICT can be used nearly everywhere around us; at schools, in police stations, libraries, banks, weather forecasting, supermarkets and in health services. It makes our lives easier, by quicker and good quality research, by storing important information, and quick passing down of any information, in nearly every form that we want.

ICT in health services is used mainly to achieve poverty reduction and improving health of the most poor and exposed to many diseases, because of lack of medicine, people.  It already have made a big impact on the health care by:

  • Improved  spread of public health information and facilitated public conversations around major health threats.
  • Enabled distant consultations, diagnosis and treatment trough telemedicine(an application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred through a phone, internet or other networks)
  • Facilitated teamwork and cooperation among health workers
  • More effective health research
  • Strengthened ability to monitor public health threats and responding to them very quickly
  • Improved efficiency of administrative systems.

ICT is very important in health services because improving health includes improving public health and medical  programs designed to provide optional, emergency, and long-term clinical care. Reliable information and effective communication, like mobile telephony, e-mails or video-conferencing, are vital elements in public health practices.  Doctors from all around the world may communicate with each other and discuss any health issues without leaving their homes or offices. Also, increased and more accessible information helps people with improving their own health.

The use of ICT in health sectors have focused on three broad categories:

  1. Improving functioning of  health care systems, which includes management of patients care and records, administrative and ordering systems .
  2. Improving the delivery of health care through better diagnosis, training among workers, and supporting them in primary health care.
  3. Improving communication in health services, including improved communication between workers and feedback on the impact of health services and interventions.

ICT’s help with improving the health care delivery in a number of ways. Telemedicine is one of them. It helps countries deal with shortages of professional doctors through better coordination of resources and helps in sharing experience and professional development. Also, there are ICTs like radios. For instance, in Nepal, rural health workers may get information and support through the radio. They are given a chance to receive standardized instructions. HIV and AIDS are supported by electronic network and communication. Electronic networks are valid and workable means of providing learning and dialogue, highlighting issues and creating virtual conferences among those who cannot attend in person. A project in South Africa, Asia and the Pacific was created to provide electronic networking and communication, so that an opportunity is given for people to attend many conferences.

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In developing countries, many health workers involved in primary health  are isolated. They often work alone, and have little or no access to up-to-date information and chances to exchange experience with colleagues. The situation is starting to improve though, thanks to PDA’s(Personal Digital Assistants)-small, handheld devices that enable workers to have access to important and needed information, store and capture health data. In Ghana, Kenya  and Uganda PDA’s are very common. In Ghana, they are used by community volunteers. In Kenya, medical students were equipped with the small devices, that were loaded with relevant information about their studies. While in Uganda, practicing  physicians were given the devices containing basic reference material as part of their continuing medical education. 

In summary, telemedicine provides benefits, like urban and rural linkages and connecting health staff to centralized health expertise. Phones and e-mails that are incorporated into medical practices can make a significant difference. Also, multiple ICT routes are used for e-learning in a mixed toolbox approach, eg. Using internet, SMS, PDAs, radio, printouts.

People take in new information, ideas, and approaches in terms of their own local context and social, economic and cultural processes. They  adapt them into their daily realities in ways that help them better deal with the local situation. They have to understand the culture of another country and find out whether the treatment they want to give the patients is right for them, taking into account their religion, for example. ICT’s help them with that.  They provide opportunities to encourage dialogue and social mobilization. Approaches that are being used for any of these purposes include: developing internet information portals, using mass media to broadcast widely, developing interactive programming on broadcast media and making more effective use of existing communication systems.

Communication systems are already quite developed, still, though, they need an increase in effectiveness. We can observe the quick development of communication systems through, eg. GIS-Geographical Information Systems. These devices have a very important use; they help to predict and identify the spread of any harmful diseases. In many countries, it already had helped a lot. In Bangladesh, GIS data had been used to warn the health authorities from the spread of cholera in coastal cities.

Communication systems may be developing, but there are three main barriers that restrain the successful application of ICT in the health sector in developing countries: connectivity, capacity and content. With connectivity, the issues are about lack of access to electricity,  high costs, lack of telecom policy or solar power options. With capacity, the problems are with ensuring that information are culturally appropriate. While content problems include lack of  local content creation and the language used.

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Although, many poor and developing countries already use ICT’s in the health sectors, they still have to be developed, so there is two-way communication and the messages and information are clear. A good example is Namibia, where there were statistics made how Namibian doctors used ICT’s to deliver health services to their patients. A questionnaire was administrated to 21 health service providers in two regions of the country, from one of which was rural, the other urban. All said that ICT’s are very important (100%). 91% said ICT helps them interacting with other health service providers. The most common ICT is a telephone(36%), the next one is a PC (23%). The most commonly used channels of communication with patients are telephones followed by television.  Namibia has big problems with budgets and lack of basic infrastructures, like electricity or telephone lines. “There is a need to promote ICT use for health service delivery and also to stimulate patients to use ICT to access health services and relevant information.”

ICT’s in health services are very important. Thanks to ICT health workers may make better treatment decisions, hospitals will provide better quality and safer care, people will make informed choices about their health, and policymakers will be better informed of any risks. Also, health service workers have to communicate between each other to help reduce poverty and help the poor. It is already achieved by telephones; SMS, calls, internet: e-mails, video-conferencing, but still has to be developed due to many barriers, like lack of telephone lines or poor access to the internet. Also, governments have to invest in organization of health services in their own countries, and, for example, bring the NHS plan to life. It will still take a lot of planning, evaluating and money, but the better the communication between countries and health services in different places, the bigger the chance of reduction of diseases, epidemics or any sicknesses.

As we can see, ICT’s may help very much in the health service, but looking from the other side, ICT’s may damage our health. There are various problems with health that are consequences of the use of computers, watching television etc.  We are susceptible to stress, eyestrain and injuries to the neck, back and wrists.  Therefore every employer, every parent, every child must be careful and take steps to protect themselves and others.  While using the computer, we sometimes do not think of all the consequences and we do not even know how serious they could be. If the monitor flickers, you do not use a screen filter and do not take regular breaks, you can have a headache, your eyes may burn and itch. What else can happen to you and why? Back pain, due to the weird position we have while sitting in front of the computer, R.S.I. (Repetitive Strain Injury), which means your hand may be weak, swelled etc. The most common one, especially at work, is stress. “Many people are afraid of computers, they don’t understand them and feel they will look stupid if they admit that they don’t know how to operate one. People worry that a computer will be able to replace them and they might lose their jobs.” These are just some reasons why people may feel stressed out because of the computers.

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The employer needs to provide steps to protect his workers, as the law (‘Health and safety Act 1974′) states.  The law states that an employer must:

  • provide tiltable screens
  • provide anti-glare screen filters
  • provide adjustable chairs
  • provide foot supports
  • make sure lighting is suitable
  • make sure there is sufficient space for people to work
  • train employees how to use work stations correctly

  • ensure employees have sufficient breaks
  • pay for regular eye sight tests for anyone who needs prescription glasses in order to use the computer.

To protect us from the side effects of using computers, a science had been introduced, which concerns designing safe and comfortable furniture and machines. It is called ergonomics. It states sunlight is the best light but it cannot reflect in your screen, the desk should support your arms, the computer monitor should be at the eye level or just below, and the screen should be about 45 cm away from your face etc.

Nowadays ICT’s are our companions nearly everywhere.  It is extremely important in the health service (and not only), mainly because of the quick passing down information and it was created to reduce poverty and help people, but we still cannot forget that it can damage our health, as well as improve it. Important or not, we have to use ICT’s wisely.

Bibliography:

  • http://www.teach-ict.com/gcse/theory/healthsafety/miniweb/index.htm
  • http://www.ictri.port.ac.uk/overview.htm
  • http://www.publictechnology.net/content/1480
  • http://jtt.rsmjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/6/285
  • Improving health, connecting people; the role of ICT s in the health sector of Developing Countries, framework paper, 31st May 2006.

Improving health, connecting people; the role of ICT s in the health sector of Developing Countries, framework paper, 31st May 2006.

http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/I/ICT.html

http://jtt.rsmjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/6/285

http://www.ictri.port.ac.uk/overview.htm

http://www.publictechnology.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1480

http://www.teach-ict.com/gcse/theory/healthsafety/miniweb/pg5.htm

http://www.teach-ict.com/gcse/theory/healthsafety/miniweb/pg7.htm

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