Health policies and data

Improving Health Sector Efficiency


Introduction | Table of Contents 
 Related Material | How to Obtain this Publication




ISBN: 978-92-64-08461-2 (PDF)

Publication date:
June 2010

154 pages, 11 tables, 9 graphs



OECD Health Policy Studies
Improving Health Sector Efficiency: The Role of Information and Communication Technologies

Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, Health Division

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.

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.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Generating Value from Health ICTs

• Health information technology can drive improvements in quality and efficiency in health care

• Reducing operating costs of clinical services
• Reports on cost-savings tend to be anecdotal in nature

• Health care organisations can reap non-financial gains from ICTs
• Administrative processes such as billing represent in most countries a prime opportunity for savings
• Achieving “transformation” through ICTs

Chapter 2. What Prevents Countries from Improving Efficiency through ICTs?
• Are there any financial gains to be made, and if so, by whom?

• Purchase and implementation costs for EMRs can be significant

• Physician incentives differ under different payment systems

• Cross-system link-ups remain a serious problem

• Lack of commonly defined and consistently implemented standards plagues interoperability

• Privacy and security are crucial

 Chapter 3. Aligning Incentives with Health System Priorities
• A range of financial incentive programmes have emerged to accelerate ICT adoption
• Grants and subsidies
• Payment differentials
• Long-term sustainability and financing

Chapter 4. Enabling a Secure Exchange of Information
• Governments’ role in the adoption of standards
• Certification of products

• Setting vendor conformance usability requirements

• Addressing the challenges with the implementation of privacy and security requirements

Chapter 5. Using Benchmarking to Support Continuous Improvement
• Building a common understanding of what needs to be measured

• Countries have adopted a range of different approaches to monitor ICT adoption

• Common information needs are reflected in a core set of widely used indicators

• Improving comparability of data on ICT in health: What options? 

Related Material


Health Update, issue 9 - The Newsletter on health-related activities at the OECD.

How to obtain this publication

Readers can access the full version of Achieving Better Value for Money in Health Care choosing from the following options:


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