OECD Health Policy Studies

2074-319X (online)
2074-3181 (print)
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This series of publications analyses the organisation and performance of health systems, and factors explaining performance variations. Studies are conducted on such topics as co-ordination of care, pharmaceutical pricing, long-term care and disability, health workforce and international migration of health workers, information and communications technologies in health care, and the economics of prevention. 
Also available in French
Improving Health Sector Efficiency

Improving Health Sector Efficiency

The Role of Information and Communication Technologies You do not have access to this content

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28 May 2010
9789264084612 (PDF) ;9789264084605(print)

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Despite the promise they hold out, implementing information and communication technologies (ICTs) in clinical care has proven to be a very difficult undertaking. More than a decade of efforts provide a picture of significant public investments, resulting in both notable successes and some highly publicised costly delays and failures. This has been accompanied by a failure to achieve widespread understanding among the general public and the medical profession of the benefits of electronic record keeping and information exchange.  

With consistent cross-country information on these issues largely absent, the OECD has used lessons learned from case studies in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States to identify the opportunities offered by ICTs and to analyse under what conditions these technologies are most likely to result in efficiency and quality-of-care improvements. The findings highlight a number of practices or approaches that could usefully be employed in efforts to improve and accelerate the adoption and use of these technologies.

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  • Executive summary
    Today the range of possible applications of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the health sector is enormous. The technology has progressed significantly and many estimate that ICT implementation can result in care that is both higher in quality, safer, and more responsive to patients’ needs and, at the same time, more efficient (appropriate, available, and less wasteful). Advocates, in particular, point to the potential reduction in medication errors as a critical advantage.
  • Introduction
    Policy makers in OECD countries are faced with ever-increasing demands to make health systems more responsive to the patients they serve, as well as improving the quality of care, and addressing disparities in health and in access to care. However, what patients and providers want often does not match what today’s health care systems are able to deliver with existing structures at least at reasonable cost.
  • Generating Value from Health ICTs
    Chapter 1 illustrates the types of benefits that can result from implementation of ICTs. It provides examples of how governments are exploiting these technologies as key building blocks in national health reform strategies and to enable innovation in health care delivery.
  • What Prevents Countries from Improving Efficiency through ICTs?
    Chapter 2 reviews the most common barriers to successful adoption and use of ICTs: financial, technical, legal and organisational. The process of ICT implementation is a notoriously complex and expensive undertaking. At each stage of the implementation/adoption/use cycle, various social and economic factors can disrupt the process.
  • Aligning Incentives with Health System Priorities
    Chapter 3 reports on how governments can intervene to promote the adoption and use of ICTs through direct regulation, economic instruments and persuasive measures.
  • Enabling a Secure Exchange of Information
    While health care organisations have access to an ever-increasing number of information technology products, achieving system-wide secure exchange of health information remains a serious problem. Drawing from case studies, this chapter examines the actions that governments can take to address this issue.
  • Using Benchmarking to Support Continuous Improvement
    This chapter reviews the principal information needs of policy makers and lessons learned about the challenges to measurement and evaluation of ICT use in health care. It considers options on how to improve the availability and comparability of data on health ICTs at OECD level.
  • Annex A. Country case studies
  • Annex B. Project background and methodology
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