The guidelines were based on a 2-year-long research study by WHO on digital technologies which was inclusive of consultations with global experts.
An overview of WHO Recommendations:
- It demonstrates that health systems need to provide response for the increasing availability of information.
- People should be assured of their own data being secure and not be put at risk because of their access to information on sensitive health issues such as sexual and reproductive health issues, thus in turn protecting individual’s privacy.
- The guidelines state ways for employing digital tools for birth notifications, deploying health worker decision support tools and using telemedicine (the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients with the help of telecommunications technology).
- Offer conducive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure and employing effective governance to make sure that the digital tools are not fragmented across the health system.
- The recommendations should help decision-makers in government health departments, the public health sector and other stakeholders to effectively understand how these digital tools could address the public’s health needs.
- Since telemedicine is a valuable complement to face-to-face-interactions, WHO underlines the importance of digital medium to reach the vulnerable population. But telemedicine cannot replace conventional interactions entirely, which is why, it’s important for consultations to be carried out by qualified health workers.
- A digital intervention by WHO that’s having positive effects in some areas is sending reminders to expecting mothers to attend antenatal care appointments and having them return with their children for vaccinations.
Importance of digital health technology:
- This technology is increasingly popular around the world as around two-thirds of the global population owns a smartphone.
- Digital health technology helps to address issues related to distance and access which otherwise poses as hindrance for conventional methods.
WHO’s work on Digital Health Technology:
- At the World Health Assembly in 2020, the global strategy on digital health to achieve universal health coverage that WHO is called upon to develop, is scheduled to be considered.
- WHO developed the eHealth Strategy Toolkit in 2012 which was published in collaboration with International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
- To monitor and coordinate digital investments, WHO has developed the Digital Health Atlas. It is an online global repository where the implementers can register their digital health activities.
- WHO has partnered with the ITU on the BeHe@lthy, BeMobile initiative for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
- WHO has developed resources to strengthen digital health research and implementation, for example, the ‘mHealth Assessment and Planning for Scale (MAPS) toolkit’ which is a handbook for ‘Monitoring and Evaluation of Digital Health’ and provides mechanisms to access digital health for the cure of TB (Tuberculosis).
- Department of Digital Health was created in WHO on 6th March, 2019 to improve WHO’s role in assessing digital technologies and supporting the Member States to regulate and integrate the technologies effectively.