Digital Health- Our Inevitable Future

Digital health is a service that transforms medical and health process through information communication technologies. Moreover, digital health (DH) is a cultural transformation of traditional healthcare into the modern kind [1]. It provides opportunities to accelerate our progress in attaining health and well-being related aspects of Agenda 2030,(SDG 3) [2]. According to the FDA, Digital Health offers opportunities to improve medical outcomes and enhance efficiency [3]. It is functional in advanced countries and the global south as well. The DH service is driven by new information communication technologies (ICT), including the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, genomics, nanotechnology, mobile and other computer devices, but not all means of electronics, for example, fax.

Only the primary step and call to action to deliver meaningful results to citizens who deserve a prosperous life

HE Dr. Abiy Ahmed

Furthermore, WHO states that “The use and scale-up of digital health solutions can revolutionize how people worldwide achieve higher standards of health, and access services to promote and protect their health and well-being.” [2#References]. Digital health (DH) refers to the use of information and communications technologies in medicine and other health professions to manage illnesses and health risks. It helps to promote the best quality health services practice that access by all stakeholders. Digital health (DH) service defined by multiple scholars and institutions. Rowlands defined DH as “It harvests data, information and knowledge in real-time from all societal activities, not just interactions with the health system and/or data traditionally regarded as ‘health’ data. It uses sophisticated analytics to distil knowledge from these data. It Intervenes in the widest possible range of societal and economic activities and technologies to encourage and generate better health and value for health investments. It is a citizen (not provider/customer/patient) centric, decentralized and requires health service providers to participate, not control.” [4].

DH is vital for medical professionals, health experts, customers, patients, policymakers, and all other stakeholders to enhance knowledge capacity, service quality and cost-efficiency. Moreover, DH technologies use different appliances, such as computing platforms, connectivity, software, and sensors for health care and related materials [3].

We believe that DH is crucial to increase our competence and narrow the knowledge gap between professionals at the global level. Hence, it matters for all of us, and we need to integrate it to our health system to provide quality services. Ethiopia has devised and approved its national digital transformation strategy [5], which will transform services to digitized Ethiopia where H.E Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) emphasizes that the national strategy is only the primary step and call to action to deliver meaningful results to citizens who deserve a prosperous life.” [7].

Of course, DH aims to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for everyone, everywhere, at all ages at the global level [2]. However, even with medical professionals and health experts integrate with the DH system, It is subject to exploitation, Digital platforms can be hacked and leaked by an unauthorized arrangement. A memorable example of such incident occurred in England in 2017G.C where the National Health System (NHS) was tapered with which resulted in health professional’s inability to access Patient’s data unless a ransom was paid as per hacker’s request [6], Such incidents defeat the primary purpose of eliciting DH health system and the services. 

Recently, multiple stakeholders within the health sector in Ethiopia partook in a digital health framework development implementation guideline workshop organized by PRECISE Consult. During which, a desk review study presented in a manner that entailed core validation areas of our national health.  As the primary validation area was discussed a detailed presentation was given on whether all stakeholders in Ethiopia are actively involved in Digital Health implementation. Following these multiple indicators were raised pointing out that although Policy level influence is key, a bottom-up approach should be advocated for, Where the primary is expansion of digital health literacy among implementers, i.e., health care workers, patients, and professional associations is Prioritized.

…through inclusivity coordination and private sector engagement we can influence and be part of SDG and UHC at large

Dr.Maraki Fikre

In the 21st century, DH is not a luxury, but a key step to enhance our capacity, and professional competency, whilst striving to provide quality service. DH has an impact in terms of health equity, access to quality health care and affordability. If applied properly, it will aid and give opportunities to learn and advance in our service delivery Therefore, it is wise, that we, as  responsible medical professionals familiarize ourselves with digital health, update ourselves in a global context through experience sharing, bench marking, and adopting best practices and later contextualize each to our settings for it is our inevitable future!

References

  1. Drobni z., Bényei E., Meskó B., Gergely B. & Győrffy Z.  (2017) Digital health is a cultural transformation of traditional healthcare, http://dx.doi.org/10.21037/mhealth.2017.08.07
  2. WHO (2020) Digital health, available at  https://www.who.int/health-topics/digital-health#tab=tab_2.
  3. FDA (2020) Digital health, available at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/digital-health-center-excellence/what-digital-health.
  4. Rowlands D. (2019) What is digital health? And why does it matter, Health Informatics Society of Australia Digital Health Workforce Australasia, available at https://www.hisa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/What_is_Digital_Health.pdf%3Fx97063.
  5. Ayalew A. (2020) PM Abiy Ahmed and Ministers approve ‘Digital Ethiopia 2025’, The National digital transformation strategy, available at https://jegnaworks.org/news/pm-abiy-ahmed-and-ministers-approve-digital-ethiopia-2025-the-national-digital-transformation-strategy/.
  6. Large-scale cyber-attack-England/2017 available athttps://www.bbc.com/news/health-39899646
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