Cisco survey of global health leaders reveals that collaboration holds greatest potential for health sector innovation
Date: Sat, 04/09/2011 - 20:51 Source: Cisco press department
At the World Health Congress, Cisco unveiled findings from a global health leader survey on national health sector innovation. The most significant findings from the online survey, commissioned by the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), reveal that collaboration and information-sharing among health professionals have the greatest near-term potential for facilitating large-scale health sector innovation.
Health leaders in 16 countries on six continents were asked about their views on the leading issues and opportunities in providing health services to their citizens.
The health leaders identified their top concerns as:
• Providing equitable access to health services.
• Maximizing the efficiency of health resources.
• Providing quality care consistently.
When asked to highlight options that would enable significant nationwide health transformation, the survey respondents identified technology-enabled innovations and telehealth solutions as potential breakthroughs. The survey found strong support from world health leaders for enabling innovation with telehealth models.
"Telehealth" is a broad concept used to denote new ways for health professionals to share information, work collaboratively and deliver services using a wide range of information and communications technology.
Focus on professional-to-professional collaboration
The findings show that many enabling technologies exist today but that the focus needs to be on integrated health solutions that will facilitate collaboration to support more efficient diagnosis, treatment and care management. Technologies that combine data exchange with people-to-people interactions help enable easy, efficient professional practices. Specifically,
• Collaborating via information and communications technology to diagnose and treat patients was high potential for 65 percent of the respondents.
• Electronically sharing or accessing diagnostic images, video or patient biometric data was also a high-potential approach for 65 percent of the respondents.
• Providing clinical training and references via ICT was high potential for 64 percent of the respondents.
• In contrast, patient care provided via care-at-a-distance models was high potential for only 32 percent of the respondents.
Key concerns and challenges
• The top challenge confronting leaders in providing health services was the maldistribution of health professionals, with 35 percent rating it their greatest challenge.
• Insufficient numbers of health professionals was the next greatest concern, with 20 percent rating it their greatest challenge.
• Considering their greatest overarching concerns, the global leaders prioritized access, efficiency and quality above "providing health services our country can afford." Only 10 percent of the respondents rated affordability as their uppermost concern.
Survey respondents voiced strong support for telehealth, but noted a considerable gap between perceived potential and current practices.
• Only 4 percent said there is "no compelling need to use telehealth."
• Only 9 percent said sharing electronic data and images is "very common" today, while a mere 4 percent said professional collaboration via ICT is currently "very common."
Promising national initiatives
The survey explored the potential of new national programs in which telehealth approaches could address national challenges. They include:
• National centers of clinical excellence. These centers would provide consultations, clinical encounters and care-management support across inpatient, outpatient, community and home care settings.
• Surge capacity aided by telehealth. Sudden increases in health services demand caused by events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and disease pandemics highlight the global need to plan and prepare.
• Community health workers supported by professionals in other locations. By supplementing knowledge with online clinical references and access to remote experts when needed, community health workers could treat simple problems and provide more sophisticated care.
Call to action
Governments, health professionals and private sector organizations all have critical roles in health care delivery. According to respondents, the top role of a government is establishing the required technology infrastructure for health innovation. The strongest role for private sector health entities lies with public-private partnerships. Health professionals and their associations can work with governments to overcome barriers to telehealth adoption. Those barriers can include reimbursement policies and regulatory constraints that slow innovation and transformation.
Frances Dare, director, Cisco IBSG Global Healthcare Practice, said "the potential for global health transformation remains untapped. These findings tell us that unlocking that potential requires efficient collaboration among health professionals, regardless of time and distance. It's about connecting the people of health care. Unleashing and disseminating professional expertise must become a national priority."
Kaveh Safavi, vice president, Cisco IBSG Global Healthcare Practice, said "when health care leaders talk about the promise of telehealth, they are thinking more about professional-to-professional collaboration than they are about direct patient diagnosis and treatment, at least in the near term."
Mary McIntosh, principal and president, Princeton Survey Research Associates International, said "this survey breaks new ground on a global level about what health leaders believe will help drive meaningful change in national health service. Having a macro view of the ICT challenges and opportunities that health leaders face focuses attention on a host of ways to advance health service for publics around the world."
The research was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International through an online survey in five languages and in-person interviews with participants from the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. The survey targeted senior government leaders (both political appointees and civil servants) with a wide range of responsibilities in the health sector.
Cisco and the World Health Congress
The results of the survey were announced as part of a World Health Congress keynote presentation and panel titled "Ministerial Forum on Global Health Innovation: A Perspective on National Health Opportunities" The panel was moderated by Olivier Raynaud, M.D., senior director of World Economic Forum - Geneva and included a discussion among the following participants: Frances Dare, director, Global Healthcare Practice, Cisco IBSG; Patrick Jeurissen, Ph.D., Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sports, the Netherlands; Dinesh Trivedi, minister of state for health and family welfare, India; and Hans Dohmann, M.D., municipal secretary of health, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group
Cisco IBSG, the company's global consultancy, helps CXOs from the world's largest public and private organizations solve critical business challenges. By connecting strategy, process, and technology, Cisco IBSG industry experts enable customers to turn visionary ideas into value. The study was developed by the Cisco IBSG Healthcare Practice and Cisco IBSG Research & Economics (R&E) Practice. The R&E Practice uniquely combines ongoing original research with in-depth financial analysis to produce high-impact insights and thought leadership for the world's largest public and private organizations.