Reflection and debate on ideas about the present and future of eHealth in the Americas continued during the week of 3-7 December as part of the “eHealth Conversations” project. Topics under discussion include eHealth management, infrastructure, telemedicine, electronic medical records, policies, interoperability, and access to information.
In the conversation on management, the debate focused on various management models, contrasting models based on investment in health information technology, such as electronic clinical information or medical records, with other public and private management models. Participants also discussed the need for efficient management of funds received and for measurement of the impact of investments on the quality of population health.
In the conversation on infrastructure, participants made progress towards a definition of infrastructure and discussed the integration of all elements of telecommunications and information technology for eHealth. This week the infrastructure group conducted a webinar that highlighted the participants’ ability to interact, make suggestions, and contribute texts and new ideas.
The debate on telemedicine focused on forging a definition of telemedicine and telehealth, seeking also to add value to successful experiences, and on how to ensure that best practices are disseminated so that they can be replicated throughout the Region.
Correct identification of patients and people and the pros and cons of free text versus structured data were among the topics that stood out in the conversation on electronic medical records.
In the debate on policies, participants noted the findings of a survey conducted by PAHO in 2010 in 19 countries, which showed that 68% considered eHealth to be a priority and 47% had adopted policies or strategies on the use of health information and communication technologies. It was suggested that the priority attached to eHealth in each country could be determined by reviewing the level of investment each makes in this area.
The debate on interoperability highlighted how patients are empowered through the establishment of standards for interoperability between institutions, which facilitates the seamless availability of patient information, enabling patients to choose where to seek care and which provider to visit.
As for the dialogue on access to information, participants discussed the importance of information quality, sound use of information, and access to information in special situations, such as in the event of a disaster.
PAHO/WHO’s eHealth Conversations project is being implemented within the framework of the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth for the Americas. The end product will be a publication that will present the conclusions drawn from these dialogues—to be updated periodically and disseminated by PAHO/WHO.
Anyone interested in contributing to the conversations through Twitter should use the #ehealthtalks hashtag. For more information about the eHealth Conversations, please contact Marcelo D’Agostino,