The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released its first guidance on digital health technologies for health workers, policy makers and vendors – it’s time for the digital age to finally be embraced.
The 10 recommendations in the guidelines suggest digital health technologies can help improve healthcare but should not be seen as a “silver bullet”. Health systems need to respond to increased visibility and availability of information, while assuring people that their data is safe, and they aren’t put at risk having accessed information on sensitive topics like sexual health.
Embracing digital health technologies
Last year governments unanimously adopted a World Health Assembly resolution calling on WHO to develop a global strategy on digital health, which is scheduled to be considered at the World Health Assembly in 2020.
WHO has also developed the Digital Health Atlas, an online global repository where vendors can register their digital health activities, to support governments in coordinating digital investments.
On 6 March 2019 the WHO announced the creation of the Department of Digital Health to help the organisation assess digital technologies.
Digital health technologies is not a “silver bullet”
The WHO stresses the importance of providing supportive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure, as well as policies to protect privacy of individuals, and governance and coordination to ensure these tools are not fragmented across the health system.
Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s CIO, said: “Digital health is not a silver bullet.
“WHO is working to make sure it’s used as effectively as possible. This means ensuring that it adds value to the health workers and individuals using these technologies, takes into account the infrastructural limitations, and that there is proper coordination.”
Over the last two years the WHO has reviewed evidence on digital technologies and consulted with experts to produce the guidelines.
They also found digital technology has the potential to improve stock management through flagging gaps in commodity stocks and asking health systems to take action.
The new guidelines echo the likes of the Topol review and other expert advice on digital health technologies.