Five articles, whose lead or senior authors are nationally known informatics leaders and members of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), appear in the Feb. 2010 issue of Health Affairs and provide a glimpse into the future of health care delivery in an increasingly information-driven era of health care in the developing world. These articles explain the critical role that information technology, and the health informatics work force will play in achieving overall health improvements globally. The articles further reflect innovative program initiatives AMIA and its membership currently have underway on a global scale:
- “Enhancing ‘M-Health’ With South-To-South Collaborations,” authored by AMIA Members Walter H. Curioso and Patricia N. Mechael. Conclusive statement: “Because mobile phones and other mobile technologies require less infrastructure, provide greater reach, and possess more agile local programming potential than other e-health systems, scale-up of m-health may be the most promising investment in developing countries.”
- “A Toolkit For E-Health Partnerships in Low-Income Nations,” authored by AMIA Members William Tierney, Andrew Kanter, Hamish Fraser, and Christopher Bailey. Conclusive statement: “We must improve the availability of electronic health information broadly in the developing world, not just in an increasing number of targeted demonstrations. Partnerships sustaining these demonstrations must become part of the fabric of global health care.”
- “Building A Health Informatics Workforce In Developing Countries,” authored by AMIA Members William Hersh, Alvaro Margolis, Fernán Quirós, and Paula Otero. Conclusive statement: “E-health and m-health applications hold vast promise to improve global health. As these projects develop, leaders need to be cognizant of the need for a well-trained workforce to lead their implementation.”
- “Connecting Information to Improve Health,” authored by AMIA Members W. Ed Hammond and Christopher Bailey, and Philippe Boucher, Mark Spohr, and Patrick Whitaker. Conclusive statement: “The world should move toward using unique personal identifiers, for the benefit of each single person and to create databases to evaluate and monitor population health.”
- “Mobile Health Needs and Opportunities in Developing
Countries,” authored by James G. Kahn, Joshua S. Yang, and AMIA Member James S. Kahn. Conclusive statement: “M-health should foster local microenterprise, creating upgraded platforms and new functionalities that will generate ongoing economic opportunities. . . Increased economic opportunities in turn would contribute to improved health.”
The above articles, authored by prominent AMIA members, resulted from discussions examining e-Health, global partnerships, and local solutions during a month-long conference convened by the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, during the summer of 2008. More than 200 leaders, representing health care, technology, finance, policy, and government sectors, attended the meeting. Full text of the articles is online at www.healthaffairs.org.
“This series of articles — like discussions at the Bellagio meeting — focuses on how to leverage e-Health to advance health services in particularly underserved environments,” says AMIA President & CEO Ted Shortliffe. “E-health applications to improve health care quality and access in resource-constrained portions of the world are an interest area that has grown into a major initiative for AMIA since then.”
Health Affairs contributor William Hersh, MD, chair of the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health and Sciences University, and a popular AMIA distance-learning instructor, says, “The principles of informatics apply no matter whether you are in a developed or developing country: For e-Health to succeed, you need sound informatics to focus on information and how you can use it to improve health, healthcare, public health, or a specialized health-related practice area.” He adds, “Technology is only a tool to help produce quality health outcomes; the required component for success is a well-trained work force.”
AMIA is a member-supported professional association of leaders advancing biomedical and health informatics. AMIA supports the development and application of informatics in patient care, public health, human life sciences, education, research, administration, and health care-related policy. AMIA’s 4,000 members advance the use of health information and communications technology with the ultimate goal of improving health and healthcare systems.