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Digital Health Guideline Recommendations from WHO, a directional framework for Indian Digital Health Innovators

The WHO Guideline Recommendations on Digital Health Interventions was launched today at Geneva to support WHO Member States, medical and public health communities, philanthropies, academic stakeholders, professionals in the medical informatics and digital health communities make informed decisions around implementing digital health interventions for health systems strengthening.

Oommen John, Senior Research Fellow from the George Institute for Global Health, India serves as an invited expert on the WHO Digital Health Guidelines Development Group.

Here is what Oommen has to say about the guidelines and the implications of the ten recommendations contained in the WHO’s first Digital Health Guideline.

"Health Systems across the globe are facing a number of systemic challenges in their pursuit of Health for All. Digital Health interventions present an opportunity to address some of the health systems constraints in achieving universal health coverage, so much so that Digital health has been labelled as the Penicillin of the modern era.

 

Clinicians rely on “culture and sensitivity” patterns to choose appropriate antibiotics. As with antimicrobials, the effectiveness of DH will be nullified is used a broad spectrum intervention. The WHO digital health guidelines are the “culture and sensitivity” framework for decision makers.

 

Digital Health Innovations made in India could help strengthen health systems across the globe, to achieve maximal impact digital health innovations would need to address specific health system challenges through design thinking approaches. Digital Health Interventions need to embedded within the health systems, not merely as a digital health “Band-Aid” through a “mobile app”.

 

This calls for a radical change to the way innovators and health systems stakeholders think. The WHO digital health guidelines provide this framework and Indian healthcare innovators and start-ups could leverage this to achieve impact through implementation at scale.

 

India is a hub for digital health innovations. However, very few of these DH innovations have achieved scale for impact within the health systems. It is important therefore to pause, reflect, and use the WHO Digital Health guidelines as a framework to the innovation ecosystem in India and help guide the energy and enthusiasm of the “startups” to develop, evaluate and implement digital health innovations that can help achieve UHC.

 

The National Health Protection Scheme, Ayushman Bharat presents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage digital health interventions in improving access to healthcare, and of particular relevance are digital health records for tracking clients’ health status and services and provision of training content to health care providers via mobile devices/mLearning platforms."

At George Institute we are establishing 'Genovate' a social entrepreneurship program focused on delivering innovative and affordable healthcare solutions for non-communicable diseases in underserved populations – and we are excited to see WHO providing this timely and important framework for global digital health innovations, we hope to leverage the W.H.O. Digital Health Guidelines as a guiding framework for Genovate.

Download the W.H.O guideline recommendations of Digital Innovation for Health System Strengthening (PDF 1.3 MB)