e is for … evaluation?

This year’s e-health conference is titled “e is for everyone” but I want to focus on another “e”: evaluation. I have heard a few people suggest that the next “big thing” in ehealth is evaluation. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with this prediction.

Up until recently, much of the effort in health informatics/ehealth has centered around developing the electronic health record (EHR) or in conducting “proof of concept” type tests. Now that some of the technologies are starting to be deployed and used, I think the next logical step in evaluation would be to start evaluating in terms of efficiency and/or effectiveness. But, does this necessarily mean that evaluation will be the driver of ehealth?

I had a chance to speak with an experienced, senior government worker regarding ehealth. She indicated that there seems to be a general consensus and recognition that the use of technology is the future. Rather than focusing on the future technologies, she said that what is needed is evidence that things work – the simpler the better. Perhaps amidst all the past hype surrounding ehealth, a tendency to propose large, complex solutions took hold of the field. When we look at the work of Alberta, I think we can see that a “master” plan existed, the development path followed a staged approach; building one functionality at a time and then moving on.

I suppose that in the end, I’m not entirely convinced that evaluation per se, will be the next big thing in ehealth. Actually, my position is somewhat ironic given my research in evaluation and ehealth. I think that evaluation will become more important. But, I suspect that evaluation will become part of the development process.



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