Point of View
Transforming Healthcare in Emerging Markets
Eileen L. Lavergne
Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)
Cisco IBSG Copyright © 2007 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
1Cisco IBSG Copyright © 2007 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. 1
Point of View
In Emerging Markets, Cisco IBSG works with leaders of key national and
regional government agencies, businesses, communities, multilateral
institutions, and NGOs to turn their technology investments into strategic
national assets. Serving as trusted advisers in varied assignments spanning
broadband connectivity, digital inclusion, smart communities, and business
productivity, IBSG aligns ICT to support socioeconomic development in these
countries. Connected Health is IBSG’s approach to harnessing the power of
ICT to serve the country’s national healthcare and transformation agenda.
In every country, health is a major concern for government, citizens,
businesses, and providers of information and communications tech-
nology (ICT) services. Each country faces key healthcare issues, with
developing countries carrying the greatest burden of disease and the
fewest resources to deal with the problem. Despite the temptation to
develop acute care at the expense of the primary care sector, there
now is a growing realization that this approach is flawed and a more
holistic solution is needed. Cisco’s fundamental proposition is that
patients, clinicians, managers, or providers of services need to be part
of a connected health community in order to make better decisions
that transform healthcare.
The Cisco® Connected Health program embodies a framework and
methodology for the application of advanced healthcare info-structures1
that adapt closely to specific challenges and priorities in each country,
while drawing on proven technologies and vast experience of applica-
tions worldwide. Connected Health allows greater collaboration among
professionals, faster delivery of patient care, easier and less demand-
ing administration, and development of patient-centric healthcare
services that enrich the quality of life and economic strength of the
nation it serves.
This paper develops the Connected Health model so that it can be
applied in developing countries that can afford only a simple infrastruc-
ture. It argues that when health is regarded as part of a holistic program
of development, the aggregation of demand will make the connectivity
needed to transform health (and other services) more affordable.
Point of View:
The case for better healthcare
may seem to be self-evident.
Yet, however desirable universal
access to excellent healthcare
may be, the realities of budget
and logistics present challenges
as populations grow, chronic
diseases escalate, and lifestyle
realities take their toll.
The Cisco concept of Connected
Health delivers a framework
for government and healthcare
providers, and enables citizens
to be more informed about
their own health through the
development of advanced ICT
infrastructures that support next-
generation healthcare provision.
In the developing world, Cisco
Connected Health provides
the opportunity to accelerate
the effective provision of
healthcare even to remote areas.
Improved collaboration among
health workers, greater facility
for self-treatment, and patient
involvement in primary care all
serve to optimize performance
of the healthcare service as a
whole. A healthier nation is an
economically stronger nation.
1. An info-structure is an integrated network of systems and information and communications technology that allows citizens,
government, and businesses to connect on a common platform. In healthcare, such an info-structure allows citizens and people
throughout the healthcare system to communicate with each other to make informed decisions regarding their own health,
the health of others, and the healthcare system.
Cisco IBSG Copyright © 2007 Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.2
For any government, ensuring all citizens have access to healthcare
is a fundamental responsibility. It is an essential economic function; a
healthy nation is a productive and competitive one. Healthcare must be
accessible, affordable, and responsive, both to the specific, constantly
changing medical and clinical needs of patients, and to the broader
demographic, social, and cultural shifts that typify the modern world. The
Millennium Development Goals2 for reducing child mortality, improving
maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
are proving difficult to meet. They rely on progress elsewhere, not least
in global partnerships for development, such as making available new
technologies like ICT.
Health is a fundamental right for all citizens. Article 25 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights states that “…everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and
of his family.” Translating this right into knowledge of how best to maintain
good health and manage ill health, however, remains a major challenge,
as does enabling access to appropriate and affordable healthcare.
From the perspective of businesses, whether a large multinational
or a single-person start-up, ill health is a major threat to productivity
and income generation. Conversely, a healthy workforce contributes
significantly to providing resources that enable standards of living that
support good health. In many countries, health services are the largest
employer and a business that can consume up to 10 percent or more
of gross domestic product (GDP). Investment in an ICT infrastructure
enables health services to deliver better value for the money.
For specialist providers of ICT services, significant challenges and
opportunities exist. New technology is crucial to successful delivery
of modern healthcare services. ICT has proven a major influence on
growth, efficiency, and innovation worldwide. ICT integration, in which
once disparate areas of infrastructure are unified and consolidated, is a
critical concern, particularly in the distributed environment that typifies a
healthcare infrastructure. It is now possible to deliver connectivity within
and between health facilities, as well as to mobile health workers (and
citizens) to enable fast, secure access to relevant and current knowledge.
2. The Millennium Development Goals are eight aggressive goals that make up the Millennium Declaration that was signed at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit to end
global extreme poverty by the year 2015. The eight goals are: 1: End Hunger and Extreme Poverty, 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education, 3: Promote Gender
Equality and Empower Women, 4: Reduce Child Mortality, 5: Improve Maternal Health, 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Disease, 7: Ensure Environmental
Sustainability, 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.
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Point of View
For many developing countries, however, the costs of connectivity
are prohibitively high and need to be reduced if health and economic
development are to be improved.
Cisco believes that the delivery of an ICT infrastructure to support
Connected Health offers developing countries the opportunity to provide
advanced healthcare services where they can be afforded, while at the
same time offering coverage and knowledge access to all citizens and
health workers. A range of issues and challenges to overcome can be
presented in a general framework, but still need to be addressed in the
specific context of each country.
Issues and Challenges
Health services worldwide are facing new and evolving challenges. The
population of many countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, will increase
greatly in the coming decades. In contrast, owing to below-replacement
fertility levels, some developed countries are expected to experience
a significant population decline. Developing countries account for 80
percent of the global population and 90 percent of the global disease
burden, but only 12 percent of global health spending.
Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respi-
ratory diseases, and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality
in the world, representing 60 percent of all deaths. Eighty percent of
chronic disease deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Chronic disease risks become widespread much earlier in a country’s
economic development than usually is realized. For example, levels
of body mass and total cholesterol increase rapidly as poor countries
become richer and national income rises. For the poor, however, any
form of ill health, such as poor nutrition, prevents them from working.
They cannot earn the money needed to provide for themselves or
others, so, although high mortality is the most significant population
concern for developing countries, disability needs to be considered as
well. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) work on the Global Burden
of Disease3 shows that in low-income countries, the three leading causes
of disability-adjusted life years lost to ill health are HIV/AIDS,
perinatal conditions, and unipolar depressive disorders.
3. A WHO response to the need for comprehensive, consistent, and comparable information on diseases and injuries at global, regional, and national levels.
Safety and quality of care are high priorities, especially with rising