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WHO releases guidelines on how countries can use digital health technology

Topic covered:

  1. Issues related to health.

 

WHO releases guidelines on how countries can use digital health technology

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Highlights, need and significance of these guidelines, overall significance of digital health technology.

 

Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new recommendations on 10 ways that countries can use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services.

Various digital interventions include: decision-support tools to guide health workers as they provide care; and enabling individuals and health workers to communicate and consult on health issues from across different locations.

 

Key highlights:

  • Health systems need to respond to the increased visibility and availability of information. People also must be assured that their own data is safe and that they are not being put at risk because they have accessed information on sensitive health topics, such as sexual and reproductive health issues.
  • Provide supportive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure, as well as policies to protect privacy of individuals, and governance and coordination to ensure these tools are not fragmented across the health system.
  • Encourage policy-makers and implementers to review and adapt to these conditions if they want digital tools to drive tangible changes and provide guidance on taking privacy considerations on access to patient data.
  • Telemedicine allows people living in remote locations to obtain health services by using mobile phones, web portals, or other digital tools. This is a valuable complement to face-to-face-interactions, but it cannot replace them entirely. It is also important that consultations are conducted by qualified health workers and that the privacy of individuals’ health information is maintained.
  • Reach vulnerable populations, and ensure that digital health does not endanger them in any way.

 

Why it matters?

Digital health technology is increasingly popular around the world, perhaps unsurprisingly, as around two-thirds of the world’s population owns a smartphone. But as the technologies grow in adoption, experts warn that it must be done thoughtfully, looking at the challenges of each region.

Digital health has the potential to help address problems such as distance and access, but still shares many of the underlying challenges faced by health system interventions in general, including poor management, insufficient training, infrastructural limitations, and poor access to equipment and supplies.

 

Sources: down to earth.

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