Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Successful eHealth Projects

The European Union has issued a report titled eHealth is Worth it - The economic benefits of implemented eHealth solutions at ten European sites. This 60 page report provides evidence of the economic benefits of 10 projects widely regarded as successes.

The report focuses on lessons learned in eHealth initiatives and has distilled the reasons for success down to six key factors:
  1. Commitment and involvement of all stakeholders: All phases of eHealth development, implementation and deployment have to besupported by citizens/patients, health providers,industry, authorities, and third party payers.
  2. Strong health policy and clinical leadership that guides a flexible and regularly reviewed eHealth strategy: While the strategy should be directed by a long term vision of a citizen-centred health delivery system, it must address concrete needs of actors in the system. The strategy should include achievable, shorter term goals that create an eHealth investment dynamic. A big-bang approach with ambitious goals to be achieved over a short period of time is not recommended.
  3. Regular assessment of costs, incentives and benefits for all stakeholders: Considering purely financial return on investment at an institutional level, or potential benefits for only one of the stakeholders, may lead to suboptimal decisions. Particular attention should be paid to include all users, some of whom are often neglected in such assessments.
  4. Organisational changes in clinical and working practices: This is indispensable in order to optimise the use of ICT-enabled solutions and realise the benefits. Such changes should be facilitated by greater legal certainty in using eHealth solutions.
  5. Strong clinical leadership, good organisational change management, multi-disciplinary teams with a well-grounded experience in ICT and clear incentives: The combination of skills of the people involved will make the difference between success and failure, not the specific eHealth solution. Skills development through continuous education and training is essential.
  6. Long term perspective, endurance and patience: Beneficial eHealth investment is like a good wine. It takes a considerable amount of time (about 5 years) to mature and develop its potential fully.
These findings are consistent with my own analysis of the success factors for benefits realization. I have created a Benefits Realization Gap Analysis Tool that includes most, if not all of these factors as part of the eHealth Risk Report Card Methodology. It is available for free download at www.ehealthrisk.com.

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