MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Information and communication technology (ICT) tools are crucial to helping Asian governments fast-track good-quality, affordable healthcare for all their citizens, delegates at a regional healthcare conference here heard today.
“Better use of ICT means better data and systems that improve the quality of healthcare while reducing the costs,” said Susann Roth, Senior Social Development Specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “And ultimately, good health makes for improved lives and sustainable and inclusive growth.”
The conference, Measuring and Achieving Universal Health Coverage with ICT in Asia and the Pacific, is gathering around 200 key government officials from health, social protection, finance agencies, academic institutions, and development organizations from over 25 countries. Participants will review evidence on the cost, benefit, and impact of ICT solutions in order to improve healthcare monitoring and thus achieve universal health coverage more quickly. The conference also aims to help ADB developing member countries strengthen their own business cases for strategic ICT investments to maximize the use of their healthcare budgets.
The conference is co-hosted by ADB, the World Health Organization, and the Asia e-Health Information Network.
ADB aims to boost its annual financing of health-related projects to between $400 million and $750 million dollars a year by 2020, roughly doubling its health assistance of recent years. ADB is also developing an Operational Plan for Health, with universal health coverage as the overarching goal. ICT will play a big role in the plan.
ADB is already supporting ICT use to improve delivery of health services and ensure better data collection in Asia. For example, ADB is financing the laying of fiber-optic cabling in the Pacific and a related project to help Tonga use computer networks to provide healthcare services to patients who live far from hospitals and transmit X-ray images and other health data to specialists. In Bangladesh and Lao People's Democratic Republic, ADB is helping to collect patient data and collating them electronically to enable communities to better plan their health programs. Meanwhile, ICT investments in Mongolia are improving hospital management and health financing by ensuring hospitals have all the data they need to make the best decisions.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including co-financing of $6.6 billion.