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Using information and communication technology to improve health in Asia

June 8, 2016

Health systems in countries across Asia struggle to provide access to health services, especially to vulnerable populations. Information and communication technologies like mobile phones are being used to address health challenges. This networked approach to health, or eHealth, can increase access to services and information. But can it fill critical gaps in health service provision?

IDRC supported the creation of PANACeA, a network of 16 researchers from 12 low- and middle-income countries. The network collaborated on eight multi-national research projects to find out how eHealth is perceived, adapted, and adopted in different settings. The network made it easier for experts across Asia to communicate, conduct research, and design studies through mentorship activities, online seminars, and workshops.

New solutions to improve health

Coordinated by the Aga Khan University with support from the University of Calgary, the network also generated a large body of evidence and offered new solutions to improve health outcomes. For example:

  • Text messages were used to promote safe motherhood practices in Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, resulting in increased prenatal care visits and increased deliveries at health facilities
  • Online tuberculosis diagnostic committees in Pakistan and the Philippines proved capable of making accurate diagnoses from a distance, potentially reducing diagnosis and treatment delays
  • A Cost-Benefit Analysis Tool was developed in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, providing potential cost savings of nearly 50% in large hospitals through computerization of registration and laboratory reporting

Learn more about current research integrating ICTs within health systems

Learn more about IDRC-supported research on eHealth

Read "A systematic review of the use of telehealth in Asian countries" (2009), a paper that came out of the network and was published in the Journal of Telemedecine and Telecare. 

Read IDRC-published book Telehealth in the Developing World, chapters 3, 17, and 27 for insight on telemedicine in the Philippines and Nepal and eHealth in international networks.