Universal Health Coverage by Design: ICT-enabled Solutions are the Future of Equitable, Quality Health Care and Resilient Health Systems
Information and communication technology is key to achieving and measuring universal health coverage in Asia and the Pacific.
Asia and the Pacific continues to face complex public health challenges, including widening social and economic inequities, escalating health-care costs, vulnerability to health systems shocks due to natural disasters and pandemics, and a changing disease profile with rising incidence of noncommunicable diseases. Changing lifestyles, aging societies, urbanization and greater population mobility, together with the impact of climate change, make the public health challenges faced by the region ever more complex.
Recognizing that inclusive growth, sustainable economic development, and national and regional health security are important policy objectives that cannot be achieved without a healthy population, almost all countries in Asia and the Pacific, irrespective of their level of development, have embraced universal health coverage (UHC) as a pathway to greater national prosperity.
- Obtaining universal health coverage (UHC) has been widely embraced in Asia and the Pacific. UHC is essential to inclusive growth, health security, and sustainable economic development. To achieve UHC, more resources have to be mobilized for the health sector, and they must be used more efficiently and effectively.
- Information and communication technology (ICT) innovations in health—or eHealth— are key enablers for achieving and measuring UHC. ICT solutions empower patients and communities to engage at all levels of the health system, and can be transformative through each stage of every country’s health sector development.
- ICT solutions have the potential to reduce healthcare costs to families, improve equitable access to quality services, efficiently link health systems with social protection programs, and increase accountability and sustainability in health service delivery.
- Optimizing existing ICT infrastructure and making strategic new investments in eHealth solutions may accelerate UHC in terms of which people, what services and how much of the costs are to be covered.
- There are significant opportunities, particularly in low resource environments, for timely and innovative use of ICT, but solutions must be harnessed strategically to deliver cheaper and faster UHC in the right context at the right time.
- Applying lessons learned from experienced peers in the eHealth community of practice will help to rapidly implement solutions that work. The Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN) is proving to be a dynamic peerto-peer assistance platform to successfully progress towards UHC with ICT.
- Measuring UHC with ICT-enabled monitoring systems can also enhance evidence based health policies and decision making with more reliable and sufficient data in formats and frequencies that ensure better health systems performance.