World Health Organization (WHO) just released first-ever guidelines on digital health adoption. The 10 guidelines suggest how countries can use digital technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets, and computers, to improve patient care and essential services.
“Harnessing the power of digital technologies is essential for achieving universal health coverage,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Ultimately, digital technologies are not ends in themselves; they are vital tools to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.”
Designed to help decision-makers in government health departments, the public health sector, and other stakeholders better understand how they could help people with digital tools, the guidelines also address issues of patient privacy, appropriate implementation and adoption hurtles.
Over the past two years, WHO systematically reviewed evidence on digital technologies and consulted with experts from around the world to produce recommendations on some key ways such tools may be used for maximum impact on health systems and people’s health, reports WHO.
One such digital intervention is already making positive impacts in some areas by sending reminders to pregnant women to attend antenatal care appointments and having children return for vaccinations.
Other digital interventions reviewed by who include decision-support tools to guide health workers as they provide care; and enabling people and health workers to communicate and consult on health issues from across different locations.
“Health systems need to respond to the increased visibility and availability of information,” WHO says in the guideline.
WHO aims to encourage decision makers to review and adapt to use digital tools to drive tangible changes in regard to patient data and privacy.
“Health workers need adequate training to boost their motivation to transition to this new way of working and need to use the technology easily,” WHO says. “The guideline stresses the importance of providing supportive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure, as well as policies to protect the privacy of individuals, and governance and coordination to ensure these tools are not fragmented across the health system.”