Everyday technologies like the Internet and cell phones make new ways of delivering healthcare possible, says Deborah DiSanzo is Chief Executive Officer of Philips Healthcare

Imagine that your son develops a cough, but there’s no hospital or clinic within your community that can identify if his respiratory condition is serious. Imagine your wife is pregnant and the closest clinic is a four-hour walk away. Imagine your father is in an intensive care unit where there are too few staff and no specialists to attend to his illness.

At this year’s World Economic Forum, discussions on access to healthcare were prevalent. But what is perhaps even more notable is that the topic of “innovation” was always discussed in tandem. It is universally agreed, regardless of GDP, population density or existing infrastructure, that improving access to healthcare will require meaningful innovation.

Solutions such as ehealth (electronic), chealth (connected) and mhealth (mobile) hold great promise for small and large-scale problems. Sophisticated ehealth networks address problems of access across vast distances in rural communities. They also address the access problem of care provider shortages. Simple, easy-to-use, hand-held devices and other digital technologies will have a central role in overcoming pervasive health issues in both developed and developing countries.

Out of necessity, care is moving from traditional hospital settings into clinics and homes where patient-consumers are a force for change. Everyday technologies like the Internet, video, cellular and other communication tools make new ways of delivering healthcare possible, even expected.

We need to make locally relevant connections across the continuum of care through local partnerships with clinicians, patients, families, governments, healthcare systems and providers around the world. Working locally, we’re assured of understanding the intricacies of government or private health systems, ways of working, and even societal issues that impact access to care.  We must team up – industry, governments, clinicians, and patients – to develop solutions that improve access to care.

Addressing society’s most acute healthcare challenges will require innovative solutions, and, importantly, the ability to facilitate connections among appropriate resources, people and technologies. Improving access to healthcare for the future goes hand in hand with improving patient outcomes and providing better value in healthcare delivery.

Author: Deborah DiSanzo is Chief Executive Officer of Philips Healthcare.

Image: A computer is reflected on the glasses of a doctor REUTERS/Paul Hackett