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Health is not only an important topic in analogue everyday life; health issues are also becoming increasingly important in the digital world. The growing digitalisation makes it possible to access care and counselling services more easily.
The policy initiative Digital Innovation and Pandemic Control (DIPC), initiated by BMZ and implemented by GIZ, is working together with Digital Square, an initiative of PATH, a global nonprofit organisation working for public health, and with ministries of health in Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania to select and implement digital tools to strengthen immunisation systems as part of the DIPC initiative.
In a conversation with Luciana Rajula, Digital Square’s business analyst and technical editor, she highlights the importance of digital health and how its full potential can be realised.
Digital health is crucial for Low Middle-Income Countries as it improves access to healthcare, enhances healthcare delivery, strengthens health systems, reduces costs, aids in disease prevention and control, provides valuable research insights, and facilitates capacity building.
Luciana Rajula, business analyst & technical editor, Digital Square
Why is digital health important?
Digital health plays a crucial role in improving healthcare access, quality, and efficiency. Electronic health records (EHRs), clinical decision support systems, and health information exchange platforms ensure that relevant patient information is accessible to healthcare professionals, enabling informed decision-making, reducing medical errors, and improving continuity of care.
How did the Covid –19 pandemic change things?
The pandemic accelerated the adoption and acceptance of digital health technologies and practices. It also brought to light the potential and value of digital solutions in overcoming healthcare challenges, maintaining continuity of care, enhancing public health surveillance, and improving healthcare access and delivery.
What gaps remain?
Interoperability is still a challenge and there is inadequate digital health infrastructure to support solutions. Additionally, healthcare workers and IT personnel in digital health lack enough equipment and the necessary skills to ensure full adoption of a digital solution.
Why is this important for Low Middle-Income Countries (LMICs)?
Digital health is crucial for LMICs as it improves access to healthcare, enhances healthcare delivery, strengthens health systems, reduces costs, aids in disease prevention and control, provides valuable research insights, and facilitates capacity building. By leveraging digital solutions, LMICs can overcome traditional barriers and address healthcare challenges, ultimately improving health outcomes, and achieving sustainable development goals for the country.
Who is missing in this picture?
The private health sector is a crucial stakeholder and should be included in the digital health picture. The private health sector encompasses private healthcare providers, clinics, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. Collaboration with the private sector is essential to ensure data sharing and interoperability between different healthcare providers and systems. Integrating private sector data into digital health systems enables a more comprehensive view of patient health records and facilitates better continuity of care.
Capacity development should also be included to empower individuals, strengthen healthcare systems and consequently achieve the full potential of digital health.
What is your vision for digital health in the future?
I hope to see digital health integration enabling personalized medicine, AI-driven decision support, and a connected healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare professionals and patients will have access to personalized data and tools for predictive and preventive care due to advanced analytics and AI algorithms. Better outcomes for global health will result from empowered patients and increased access. However, ethical considerations, data privacy, and equitable access must be addressed to realize the full potential of digital health.
How is DIPC contributing to this space/vision?
DIPC is making a significant contribution to the vision of digital health by providing support through partnerships and networks with governments and other stakeholders to foster collaboration and promote the building and adoption of the immunization product suite. Through capacity building and training initiatives, DIPC is enabling the development and delivery of training programs for healthcare professionals, administrators and IT staff, ensuring they have the necessary skills to effectively utilize the digital tools and contribute to the sustainable implementation and long-term success of the project.