The growing role of communications in healthcare

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Globally, governments under tough budgetary constraints are looking for more cost-effective healthcare provision.

Around the world, healthcare provision is coming under more pressure than ever before. Tough economic constraints are forcing governments to cut budgets and seek better efficiencies as they look to get the best from limited financial resources.

This is not helped by a changing demographic profile. In 1990 there were 15 active workers to every one retired person over 65. This year the ratio will have dropped to 12 to one. By 2015 it is estimated that globally this will have fallen further, to four active workers to one non-active person. And in the developed world the ratio of those funding healthcare services to those most likely to need them will be just two to one. Without corrective action, this will put intolerable burdens on local provision simply to maintain existing service levels.

The good news is that communications technology solutions already exist which, used effectively, could have a substantial positive impact on ensuring that existing healthcare resources are maximised.

For example, adopting a system of SMS messaging - administered centrally by a local healthcare clinic or hospital reminding patients of what action they should be taking and when - will improve effectiveness and reduce wastage. Another area in which work is already underway is in using communications technologies to better monitor and manage those with longer term medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory problems and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Communications providers are working with pharmaceutical companies and public and private sector healthcare agencies on these and other automated solutions. The key to delivering robust, global communications solutions in healthcare is to make them simple for the authorities to put into place and simple for any individual patient to access and adopt.