Project Internet Catalonia: The use of internet and IT in the health sector

June 29, 2007

I am so happy to announce that during this week has been presented by its directors, Prof. Manuel Castells and Prof. Imma Tubella, to the media and Catalonia Society the main conclusions of Project Internet Catalonia (PIC)

PIC is a research programme carried out from September 2001 to July 2007 by the UOC’s IN3. It is a basic research programme, defined by the researchers and co-led by Manuel Castells and Imma Tubella. It is made up of 7 research projects, all of which focus on Catalonia, but based on international research findings in each field.

I have been working under the direction of Prof. Castells in Project Internet Catalonia Health: Technological Modernisation, Organisational Change and Servide Delivery in the Catalan Public Health System. Prof. Castells has presented to the media the key findings of our research:

The use of internet and IT in the health sector has been studied with thousands of interviews over the internet and in person. Specifically, the focuses for study have been the Catalan Health Institute in its entirety, Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic, Barcelona’s Guild of Doctors, the nurses, pharmacists and users of the health system, patients’ associations and healthcare websites in Catalonia. There have also been case studies of the pioneering experiences in the development of IT for health with the Shared Clinical History project in the Osona area, in Palamós, Barcelona, Sabadell and Tarragona.

The study and report have been produced by Manuel Castells, Francisco Lupiañez, Josefa Sanchez and Francesc Saigi.

Essentially, the study has shown:

  • That professionals are willing to use the internet, but limit its use in direct interaction with patients.
  • The importance of the role of ICT in the efficient reorganisation of the health system.
  • The need to introduce technology, organise the network of healthcare institutions, and train and develop adequate human resources throughout.
  • The need to find adequate models for financing and managing health in the new technological environment.
  • The important technological progress seen in clinical practice and tele-medicine; in particular, in tele-diagnostic imaging.
  • The difficulty in changing the technological system without in-depth changes to the working relationship and organisational management models.
  • The lack of integration of patients in electronic communication systems.
  • Patients’ growing interest in healthcare uses of internet.
  • The lack of interactivity in healthcare websites.
  • The increasingly important role of patients’ association in health information and self-management.
  • The complex relationship between public and private practice in a mixed system such as the Catalan system.
  • The success of technological innovation projects such as the pharmaceutical card and networked information in large hospitals, as well as the difficult implantation of the Shared Clinical History project, which would represent an authentic revolution in health management.
  • The generally positive attitude of professionals and patients in terms of the use of internet and computer networks in the health system.

The whole research report will be available on the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute website on December 2007.