Information and communication technologies (ICT) can enable the delivery of healthcare in ways unimaginable in a paper-bound world. Internationally, the use of ICT in healthcare is growing rapidly as the need to provide efficient and effective care becomes more urgent to patients, providers and payors alike. Research in new models of healthcare delivery is starting to examine how ICT can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Universal health care is still not the norm for many people in developing and developed countries alike. Socio-economic status and geography have been substantial barriers to accessible care. Leveraging the diversity and ubiquity of available ICT may be one of the keys in enabling accessible healthcare across geographic and socio-economic divides.
Improvement in the health of nations begins with the individual. Recent developments in genomics and mobile networked information technologies have re-generated interest in individualizing health care to leverage current knowledge for the greatest individual benefit. In the not-so-distant past, it seemed unachievable to collect, store, analyze and share information and advice tailored to a specific individual. At best, in the past, clinical decision support systems made recommendations to clinicians about how to apply population health probabilities based on only a few individual characteristics; usually age and gender. Now researchers are testing personal decision support systems, which provide recommendations directly to the individual based on a myriad of characteristics, symptoms, signs and personal preferences. The inclusion of personal genomic information as part of this cluster of characteristics is in the near future.
Governments, health systems and other payors are beginning to recognize not only the subjective value of individualized care provided at a location of the patient's choice, but also the potential economic benefits as well. Globally, evidence is being gathered that supports health care delivery models that embrace co-management of health behaviors between health care providers and patients and encourage “localized” health care delivery. In this context, local care might take place in a community clinic, in the home or even in the pocket, as telehealth takes healthcare mobile. The term, “house calls”, may once again become familiar in 21st century healthcare, albeit with a different implementation.
We hope that the knowledge shared between ITCH 2013 participants will generate further discussions and collaborations and lead to breakthroughs in delivering effective and efficient healthcare worldwide.
School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada