The Seventy-Third World Health Assembly endorsed WHA73(28) in 2020 and welcomed the WHO Global strategy on digital health 2020-2025. The strategy proposes a vision, strategic objectives, and a framework for action for promoting digital health at the global, regional and national levels. The following is a brief description of key points of the strategy.
I. Key points of the strategy
(I) It proposes technologies, platforms, and scenarios with potential applications in digital health services, including: Internet of Things (IoT), virtual health care, remote monitoring, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchain, smart wearables, etc.
(II) Digital health can improve medical diagnosis, data-based treatment decisions, clinical trials, and self-management of health care. Efficiency and effectiveness of care will be improved through innovative business and service provision models.
(III) The overall vision includes improving healthcare in all areas (health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, management, rehabilitation and palliative care) in terms of accessibility, affordability, sustainability, equity, quality, privacy, and security and safety; it emphasizes that digital health services can make a fundamental difference in health outcomes. There is thus a global need for deeper and broader research and development, innovation, collaboration and partnership, investment and training.
(IV) It emphasizes the importance of having robust regulatory governance and a regulatory framework to protect people's personal data, enhance social trust, promote transparent governance and accountability, facilitate human resource training and development, and enhance communication efficacy.
II. Four Strategic Objectives
Strategic Objective 1: Promote Global Collaboration and Advance the Transfer of Knowledge on Digital Health
Policy options and actions
1. co-create the global strategy on digital health and establish mechanisms for strengthening national digital health strategies and implementing key collaborations on agreed-upon appropriate use of digital technologies to achieve national health and well-being goals;
2. establish a knowledge management approach to identify and share good practices, knowledge about implementation of new methods and techniques, evidence and lessons learned on digital health across countries and international communities;
3. support countries in establishing information centers for disease surveillance to manage and implement timely decisions during epidemics and other public health emergencies;
4. align countries and stakeholders to address collectively global, regional and national challenges and opportunities; identify, manage and communicate risks; and mitigate threats associated with the use of digital technologies to improve health and enable universal health coverage, the core of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
Strategic Objective 2：Advance the Implementation of National Digital Health Strategies
Policy options and actions
1. stimulate and support every country to adopt or review, own, and strengthen its national digital health strategy in a way that enhances the level of country maturity regarding digital health to achieve positive health outcomes in line with the national health plans, updated norms and standards recommendations, and universal health coverage;
2. ensure that institutions, decision-makers and personnel involved in the provision of health care services and all end-user communities and beneficiary populations are adequately engaged in the design and development phases;
3. facilitate a systematic engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the realization of the vision and its strategic objectives as part of an integrated digital health ecosystem at the national level;
4. define a national digital health architecture blueprint or road map, adopt open-source health data standards and aim for reusable systems or assets including interoperability of health information systems both at national and international levels in order to establish an innovative integration of different digital technologies using shared services, ensuring data are of good and comparable quality;
5. adopt legal and ethical frameworks for assuring patient safety, data security, appropriate use and ownership of health data, privacy data recoverability, as well as protection of intellectual property rights;
6. identify and promote sustainable financing models in support of digital health development and sharing of learning to inform future products and services. This is especially important in artificial intelligence including machine learning, implementation, integration and maintenance, including economic incentives; and
7. design, implement and monitor a change management plan, to support conducive organizational behavior surrounding newly digitized health processes and practices.
Strategic Objective 3: Strengthen Governance for Digital Health at Global, Regional and National Levels
Policy options and actions
1. strengthen governance of digital health at national and international levels by leveraging existing structures and as appropriate creating sustainable and robust governance structures, including regulatory frameworks, and the capacity for the implementation of evidence-based and proven digital health solutions at global and national levels;
2. coordinate investments in evidence-based approaches to assess promote and disseminate new and innovative health technologies for national scaled digital health programs using a person-centered approach to facilitate actions and investments based on informed decisions;
3. promote and facilitate digital health competencies in the education and training curricula of all health professionals and allied workers; and
4. promote capacity-building for leaders of public health authorities, affiliated agencies and policy-makers to take informed decisions to support digital health investments.
Strategic Objective 4: Advocate People-Centered Health Systems that are Enabled by Digital Health
Policy options and actions
1. place people at the center of digital health through the appropriate health data ownership, adoption and use of digital health technologies and development of appropriate literacy; the focus will cover not only patients, families and communities but also health workers;
2. develop approaches to the management of health at the population level through digital health applications that move health and well-being from reactive-care models to active community-based models, and reduce the burden of data collection from front-line workers by reorienting reporting-based tools into service delivery tools;
3. establish monitoring and evaluation models to facilitate monitoring the contribution of digital systems to health system processes, health workforce processes, and individual and community health needs;
4. strengthen gender equality and health equity approaches and accessibility for people with disabilities to promote inclusive digital society with enhanced digital health skills. When planning and prioritizing digital health interventions, relevant factors of inequality should be assessed in order to ensure that the introduction of digital health technologies does not aggravate these (“do no harm”) and that access for specific population groups is guaranteed. In addition, the specific potential of digital technologies to promote health equity should be leveraged. Designed properly, digital solutions can propel inclusiveness as digital connectivity can transcend physical barriers;
5. implement mechanisms for more effective public participation and transparency in national and international digital health decision-making processes, such as through international consultation processes or a stakeholder forum;
6. develop digital health training or Massive Open Online Courses to improve digital health literacy; and
7. create an international communication campaign to sensitize people to the benefits of digital health solutions and the use of their data for public interest research, and thereby promote the vision of people being actors of innovation.
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