Digital technology has the potential to enhance health systems, bolster health financing and public health efforts, and expand access to underserved populations, as highlighted in a recent World Bank report. This report, titled “ Digital-in-Health: Unlocking the Value for Everyone,” was unveiled during the G20 Health Ministers Meeting in Gandhinagar, India. It introduces a paradigm shift from mere digitization of health data to a comprehensive integration of digital technology across various aspects of health systems management and service delivery.
PIVOTAL ROLE OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
The report underscores the pivotal role of digital technology and data in addressing challenges such as chronic disease management, healthcare for diverse age groups, and readiness for health emergencies exacerbated by climate change. Currently, some countries utilize less than 5% of health data to enhance healthcare. To rectify this, the report emphasizes the need for countries to transition from the concept of digitizing health data to infusing digital technology and data into all facets of health systems management and patient care, ultimately leading to improved outcomes.
Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank, emphasized the human-centric approach to digital technology, asserting that it can personalize health services, curtail rising healthcare costs, bridge disparities in care, and facilitate healthcare providers’ responsibilities. She expressed hope that the report’s insights would empower governments worldwide, regardless of their digital maturity or financial constraints.
As health systems grapple with increasing difficulties and policy decisions lack reliable data, the report advocates for evidence-based digital investments focused on patient and provider needs. Establishing seamless connectivity among regulatory, governance, information, and infrastructure components is essential to ensure data security and transparent utilization of digital solutions. Moreover, the report highlights the significance of sustainable financing, capacity-building, and skills enhancement for the long-term implementation of digital health initiatives.
KEY AREAS OF FOCUS
To foster a digital-in-health approach, the report outlines three key areas for investment guidance:
· Prioritizing evidence-based digital investments that address significant challenges and cater to patient and provider requirements.
· Establishing interconnected regulatory, governance, information, and infrastructure elements to ensure data security and transparent use of digital solutions.
· Scaling digital health initiatives sustainably by building trust, enhancing capacities and skills, and securing ongoing financing.
Achieving the vision of digital-in-health requires global, regional, and country-level leadership. The report emphasizes the involvement of all relevant sectors and stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. It advocates for the integration of a digital-in-health mindset into routine health system planning, budgeting, and implementation.
The World Bank is committed to supporting low- and middle-income countries in realizing the potential of digital-in-health to enhance healthcare for all. With nearly $4 billion invested in digital health over the last decade, the World Bank aims to drive digital innovation in health information systems, digital governance, identification systems, and infrastructure.