E-health in low- and middle-income countries: findings from the Center for Health Market Innovations
Trevor Lewis, Christina Synowiec, Gina Lagomarsino & Julian Schweitzer
To describe how information communication technology (ICT) is being used by programmes that seek to improve private sector health financing and delivery in low- and middle-income countries, including the main uses of the technology and the types of technologies being used.
In-country partners in 16 countries directly searched systematically for innovative health programmes and compiled profiles in the Center for Health Market Innovations’ database. These data were supplemented through literature reviews and with self-reported data supplied by the programmes themselves.
In many low- and middle-income countries, ICT is being increasingly employed for different purposes in various health-related areas. Of ICT-enabled health programmes, 42% use it to extend geographic access to health care, 38% to improve data management and 31% to facilitate communication between patients and physicians outside the physician’s office. Other purposes include improving diagnosis and treatment (17%), mitigating fraud and abuse (8%) and streamlining financial transactions (4%). The most common devices used in technology-enabled programmes are phones and computers; 71% and 39% of programmes use them, respectively, and the most common applications are voice (34%), software (32%) and text messages (31%). Donors are the primary funders of 47% of ICT-based health programmes.
Various types of ICT are being employed by private organizations to address key health system challenges. For successful implementation, however, more sustainable sources of funding, greater support for the adoption of new technologies and better ways of evaluating impact are required.