Technology and data are integral to daily life. As health systems face increasing demands to deliver new, more, better, and streamlined services affordable to all people, data and technology are essential. With the potential and perils of innovations like artificial intelligence the future of health care is expected to be technology-embedded and data-linked. This shift involves moving from digitization of health data to digitalization for health and ultimately integrating digital and health as one: Digital-in-Health.
Improving health is getting harder, not easier. Health systems face serious and growing challenges and policy decisions are too often not based on reliable data. It is estimated that some countries use less than 5% of health data to improve health which means that decisions are not based on data or data is not used effectively to make improvements. Within challenging fiscal environments, people-centered and evidence-based digital investments can help governments save up to 15% of health costs.
Health systems have made immense strides in the last years to achieve ‘health for all.’ Challenges remain, as COVID-19 taught us. But the pandemic opened windows of hope into how these challenges could be addressed in innovative and more integrated ways using digital technology and data. Countries that have been more successful in their COVID-19 responses have embedded technology and data in their health systems.
Digital solutions and data are powerful accelerators in the ongoing transformation of health systems and how health care is delivered for everyone. But current approaches are opportunistic, piecemeal, and fragmented. New thinking—a digital-in-health approach—is needed to get more value out of technology and data, ensuring health systems deliver care that is accessible, equitable and cost-effective. Incorporating digital elements in every part of health systems and their management can make health services more accessible, efficient, affordable, and relevant to the population. This means, for example, infusing digital technologies in health financing, service delivery, diagnostics, medical education, pandemic preparedness, climate and health efforts, nutrition, and aging.
To support countries as they change their approach to digital-in-health, a new World Bank report, Digital-in-Health: Unlocking the Value for Everyone, offers pragmatic advice for governments and stakeholders embarking on this journey, irrespective of their digital proficiency or fiscal limitations.
The World Bank is committed to helping low-and middle-income countries to make digital-in-health a reality to improve health for everyone. Over the past decade, the World Bank has invested almost $4 billion in digital health including in health information systems, digital governance, identification systems, and infrastructure.
Several countries have developed or are planning to develop their National Digital Health Strategies, usually based on guidelines provide by the WHO/ITU. However, the operationalization of these can prove challenging owing to myriad factors - chief among which are pre-existing, disconnected systems, challenges with local capacity to execute, lack of clarity around unique identifiers or service delivery workflows, the need to often connect with infrastructure outside of the core “health system”, and lack of clarity around cost. In several instances (such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines), digital health blueprints have been developed that help countries chart out how to move ahead with planning, development, and fund raising despite this lack of clarity. The blueprint is effectively a way to coordinate shared investment in shared digital health services.
This session will introduce stakeholders with the key messages from the report followed by a discussion on the implications of the recommendations for countries and their perspectives on opportunities and challenges in the implementation of the recommendations. The session will also share practical guidance on implementation steps in digital health investments informed by case studies, country approaches, blueprints and implementation briefs. By bringing greater understanding and awareness on infusing technology and data for improved health outcomes, this session aims to contribute to the principles of decolonization of global health governance and foster inclusivity, equality, and fairness in global health governance.
Raise awareness of the paradigm shift: a “digital in health” thinking that is needed to embed digital and data for successful health system transformation. Advocate for the digital-in-health approach that can help strengthen health systems, improve health financing and public health, and increase reach to underserved populations.
Facilitate knowledge exchange and best practices: Present the key recommendations from the report that expands the focus from digitization of health data to integrating digital and health as one. Share best practices and practical guidance on the implementation steps. This includes the seven implementation briefs and the discussion on the digital health blueprint.
Promote the opportunities and discuss challenges in implementing the recommendations in the three areas: Prioritize, connect and scale as discussed in the report. Improve comprehension of pragmatic, low cost digital and data solutions that can help countries improve equity and health outcomes.
Advocate for global and regional collaboration: Create an avenue for a rich and lively discussion among diverse stakeholders on the importance of digital in health approaches in their respective country context. Promote global and regional solidarity to support countries as they lead digital health investments in their countries.
Discussion on a blueprint for implementation: Obtain input on digital health blueprints through shared country experiences, seek feedback and establish collaboration opportunities with key health system leaders to enhance and make the generalized blueprint approach more effective.