e-Health is widely used as a tool for improving health care delivery and information. Therefore distinct policies and strategies are required for its proper implementation and integration at national and international levels.
e-Health policy can be defined as “a set of statements, directives, regulations, laws, and judicial interpretations that direct and manage the life cycle of e-Health”. Recognition is growing in both developed and developing countries that e-Health is an important tool to reduce discrimination based on lack of access to information and to provide timely responses to matters affecting both personal and community health. However, the use of e-Health within or between institutions involves several factors that require proper planning, supported by well-defined policies, rules, standards, or guidelines at the institutional, jurisdictional, and global levels. The absence of these policies may cause problems during the cycle of e-Health planning that may lead to failures in achieving the intended goals. As a result, there could be inadvertent widening of gaps in health status and knowledge levels between different sectors of the population, and increasing rather than decreasing health inequity, also termed the digital divide. Experience from the developed world shows that the most common barriers to successful e-Health planning include lack of information on the role of e-Health in the provision of health care, lack of operational and support policies, lack of demonstrated cost effectiveness, and lack of clinical proponents. To complement the need for e-Health policies and strategies within countries, pressure is also developing at the global level for e-Health policies. The World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution of 2005, WHA 58.28, calls on member states to draw up long-term strategic plans for the development and implementation of e-Health. Thus, it is important for the planners of e-Health at different levels to develop policies that could facilitate the adoption of e-Health and prove its success through improvement in services and change in the health status of the population. It is important for global forces, governments, and institutional leadership to understand the range of policy issues that must be addressed at different levels and stages of an e-Health program to facilitate its planning and implementation.