WHO Guidance for Digital Health Nov 2022: Monitoring the implementation of digital health

November 23, 2022

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of digital health tools health in order to improve service quality, system effectiveness, and facility administration. The COVID-19 epidemic hastened this pattern. eHealth, often known as digital health, has the potential to enhance health-care quality, safety, and access (WHO, 2005; WHO/GOe, 2006). Digital health may play a vital role in obtaining universal health coverage and boosting capacity-building for health-care workers, as has been seen throughout the epidemic.

Digital health initiatives and treatments are typically rarely monitored or assessed, despite their obvious promise. One of the major issues with digital health is the absence of regular monitoring and study into the elements that may promote or inhibit its acceptance and usage. Strategic strategy, academic research, resource allocation, and decision-making may all benefit from the monitoring data gathered in this way. However, Software as a Medical device (SaMD) is not included in the scope of the WHO report. Regulations, Quality or clinical research performed with medical technologies based on the digital are not mentioned in the report.

Rather of focusing on assessing results, this research homed in on the process of keeping tabs on how things are becoming implemented. World Health Organization, European Commission, Nordic eHealth Research Network, OECD, and Working Group on the Measurement of Information and Communication Technology of the Statistical Conference of the Americas (SCA) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have all used different methods and indicators to track digital health over the past five years (ECLAC). The paper also examines national digital health monitoring operations in eight countries across three WHO regions over the same time frame.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified digital health as a highly relevant indicator area for the WHO European Region; however, suitable internationally agreed measures or adequate data at the international and regional levels are lacking. This overview contributes to the monitoring and evaluation of the WHO global strategy on digital health 2020-2025 and the measurement framework for the WHO European Programme of Work 2020-2025.

According to the conclusions of the research, digital health monitoring by the global community has improved. For cross-country monitoring and benchmarking, only a limited number of indicators can be developed, and these indicators will vary dependent on countries’ levels of development and relevant policy areas. Using the capabilities of current measurement programs, efforts should be encouraged to drive progress in the development and collection of comparable terminology and indicators, as well as to ensure the interchange of information and expertise for assessing national digital health maturity levels.

Make digital health progress and its effects transparent in national statistics. Aside from a few exceptions, it was necessary to contact several national organizations and institutions in each case study countries in order to have a comprehensive understanding of measurement methodology and the extent of digital health advancements. It is necessary to make knowledge more visible and accessible, particularly on a worldwide basis.

In addition, the study identified the following topics as requiring further research and attention.

Consider the vast variety in telehealth monitoring. The relevance of telehealth cannot be overstated. The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled health-care systems throughout the globe to radically reassess medical care delivery and recognize the potential of telemedicine. Measuring telehealth capability varies substantially across nations, and it is seldom monitored regularly. As a rapidly emerging subject, telehealth may have numerous meanings in different contexts. To collect insights and shared knowledge on the prospects of telehealth, it is vital to aid in the development of a common vocabulary and design standardized queries. The usability of telehealth application software should be the primary focus of evaluation in this domain.

Create new measures to assess inequities in digital health. The majority of studied countries are increasingly offering their citizens with remote access to medical care and personal health information. It is necessary to monitor people’ access to digital health services, the challenges they may encounter, and the skills needed in the digital health era in order to prevent the escalation of gaps among the most disadvantaged. The Netherlands and Uruguay are two relevant examples in this regard.

Examine new health data sources and data collection techniques. Rarely, measurement continues to place specific digital health objectives and broad quantitative assessments of inputs or outputs ahead of policies, processes, and organizational factors. Measurements must improve to provide more specific insights, such as how information systems utilize emerging new digital sources of health and behavioral data and the potential for health data reuse, especially from electronic health records (EHRs).

The study ends with suggestions for strengthening monitoring. The following actions and activities are required:

  • Improve indication comparability. Improving comparability of frequently used indicators is a short-term problem. Only a limited number of indicators can be produced for monitoring and benchmarking between nations, and they will vary based on country progress and policy priorities. Exploiting the potential of existing measurement programs, efforts should be made to establish and collect comparable language and indicators, and to share information and expertise for gauging national digital health maturity levels.
  • Include digital health advances in national statistics. To acquire a broad picture of measuring methodologies and the condition of digital health in the case study nations, many national agencies and institutes in each country were contacted. International efforts are required to make information more visible and accessible.
  • Address telehealth monitoring inconsistencies. Telehealth is crucial. The COVID-19 epidemic has led health-care systems throughout the world to reassess medical care delivery and realize the promise of telemedicine. Telehealth capacity measures vary widely between countries and aren’t consistently monitored. Telehealth is a rapidly expanding field with several implications. Standard inquiries and a common grasp of words are needed to learn about telehealth’s possibilities. Measuring telehealth application usability is important. Create new digital health inequality indicators. Most nations surveyed enable remote access to services and personal health data. Measurements are required to monitor citizens’ access to digital health services, the problems they may face, and the skills needed in the digital health age to prevent inequities among the most vulnerable. The Netherlands and Uruguay are good examples.
  • Examine new data sources and gathering methods. Measurement focuses on particular digital health aims and broad quantitative indicators of inputs or outputs rather than policies, methods, and organizational variables. Measurements must evolve to deliver more detailed insights, including how information systems exploit new digital sources of health and behavioral data and the possibilities of health data reuse, especially from EHRs (EHRs).

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