The recent Caribbean Health Financing Conference in Antigua once again put the discussion of universal health coverage and health financing directly on the table in Caribbean countries, but this time with more emphasis on the role technology can play in facilitating this process.
This is a very popular approach because the power of technology to drive the healthcare industry has been discussed for a long time, but implementation has been slow.
Health financing is an important link in the health care system that will help promote universal access. Health insurance is the number one way we currently fund public and private healthcare. In fact, a few years ago, the government proposed plans to implement the National Health Insurance Scheme, which would be administered by the National Health Fund – an important move towards universal healthcare. So this means that if the Caribbean region as a group can improve this process, we will take important steps towards achieving universal access within the region.
Currently, Jamaica is ahead of most countries in handling health claims. We are one of the few companies with online, real-time, electronic claims processing. The benefits of doing so are numerous, including increased efficiency and cost savings, immediate claims settlement, better patient service, and improved planning and financing capabilities for medical practices and hospitals.
If we really want the healthy integration we want as a unified Caribbean, countries must start by implementing electronic claims processing that is interoperable or through the same system that can work for everyone. Once we get there, then we already have at least one way to effectively fund health over and above the rest, including taxes, government funding and, most undesirable – out-of-pocket costs. All of these are currently used across the health sector. We can now consider other necessary inputs needed to implement universal coverage.
This is where technology comes in. Two important elements of UHC’s many goals are to ensure that the entire population has access to health services and that they can do so without financial loss.
The right mix of funding mechanisms will ensure the latter, while the integration of technology in all aspects of healthcare will ensure the former. In addition to improving access to healthcare, health technology can also increase operational efficiency through automation, improved data management and decision support, improved diagnosis and treatment, reduced/eliminated fraud, and reduced costs.
Technology can create a health system that is responsive to the needs of the population and sensitive to the context it serves.
an item called Technology and universal health coverage: examining the role of digital healthby Wilson, Sheikh, Gorgens, Ward, and the World Bank, November 2021 at Global Health Journalshow “The health sector is inherently data-intensive, and it helps to use analytics to improve health outcomes, respond to public health crises, and allocate resources efficiently and equitably.”
This is exactly what we need for a system whose focus will be on the overall health of each population in a holistic way, rather than just treating disease. The data will also help us plan and predict public health events. In this regard, an integrated Caribbean health network would be ideal, where support and resource sharing would benefit each country given our small and fragile economies.
“In addition to supporting good health and well-being, universal health coverage contributes to social inclusion, gender equality, poverty eradication, economic growth and human dignity.” – World Health Statistics 2022 – Monitoring Health [SDGs]Sustainable Development Goals, World Bank. Technology can be used to make this a reality.
We already have the tools needed to achieve this in every aspect of care. Electronic medical practice systems currently in use in Jamaica include medical, dental, optical, pharmacy, radiology, diagnostics, laboratory, telemedicine and electronic prescribing.
Most of them are already linked through the insurance system. This means that we have various links along the healthcare chain that can “talk” to each other, resulting in an integrated system that can be used across the Caribbean.
n Doug Halsall is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.