IN TODAY’S TECH-DRIVEN AGE, we reserve a car through an app. We order McDonald’s from a touchscreen rather than speaking to a cashier. In the U.K., a recent study showed that online transactions were 75 percent of all banking transactions.
1 It should not surprise us then to see massive increases in technology being used in the medical provisioning field. The new information and communica- tions technologies we see elsewhere across the world are increasingly being used to break down barriers to care and to improve the way medical professionals con- nect with patients and each other.
There have been various terms used for this type of health care delivery, including “telemedicine,” “eHealth,” and “telehealth.” Most of the time they are
used interchangeably. In this article we use “telehealth” because this term is
most encompassing in the content of our discussion. Below is how the World
Health Organization (WHO) defines “telehealth”:
The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor,
by all health care professionals using information and communication
technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment
and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for
the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the
health of individuals and their communities.” (World Health Organization, 2010)
Health care practitioners have been finding new and innovative ways to use communications
technologies to overcome physical distances. In the 1920s, shipborne patients could receive medical care via radio.
2 Today, personal computers and mobile phones are able to facilitate real-time
video connections between patients and medical professionals anywhere in the world.
To illustrate both a conundrum of the current state of technology in the current health care
delivery system as well as shine a spotlight on its tremendous potential for growth, let us consider
the following example: “At the end of 2015, 4.3% of the world population has regular internet
access, but 4 billion people remain offline, around three-quarters of them in 20 countries.”
demonstrate this point, let us look at the following current reach of hospitals and universal health
coverage (UHC)—defined as protection from financial risk, access to quality health care, and
Joe Allen Allbright,
and Zerong Yu
The Future Is Here