The World Health Organization https://www.who.int (WHO) recently released new recommendations on ten ways that countries can use digital health technologies accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers.
Over the past two years, WHO systematically reviewed evidence on digital technologies and consulted with experts to produce recommendations on some key ways the tools could be used for maximum impact on health systems.
One digital intervention already having positive effects in some areas is sending reminders to pregnant women to attend antenatal care appointments and to bring their children in for vaccinations. Other digital approaches include using decision-support tools to guide health workers as they provide care.
For example, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO, “The guideline has the potential to improve stock management. Digital technologies enable health workers to communicate more efficiently as to the status of commodity stocks. However, notification alone is not enough to improve commodity management, as health systems also must respond and take action to replenish needed commodities.”
The guideline also makes recommendations about telemedicine. However, WHO points out that while telemedicine compliments face-to-face interactions, the use of telemedicine does not replace face-to-face encounters entirely.
To support governments in monitoring and coordinating digital investments in their countries, WHO has developed the “Digital Health Atlas” https://digitalhealthatlas.org/en. The Atlas is an online global repository available for implementers to register digital health activities.
WHO has established innovative partnerships with the ITY to help prevent and control non-communicable diseases as well as efforts to build digital health capacity through the Regional Office for Africa https://www.who.int/about/regions/afro/en.
In March 2019, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the creation of the Department of Digital Health to enhance the role of WHO to assess digital technologies, and help Member States prioritize, integrate, and regulate technologies.