WHO releases first guideline on digital health interventions

ISLAMABAD, April 17 (APP):World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday released new recommendations for countries to use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services.
According to WHO, the guideline demonstrates that health systems need to respond to the increased visibility and availability of information.

The guideline also makes recommendations about telemedicine, which allows people living in remote locations to obtain health services by using mobile phones, web portals, or other digital tools.

WHO points out that 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.

The guideline emphasizes the importance of reaching vulnerable populations, and ensuring that digital health does not endanger them in any way.

This guideline represents the first of many explorations into the use of digital technologies and has only covered a fraction of the many aspects of digital health.

In 2018, governments unanimously adopted a World Health Assembly resolution calling on WHO to develop a global strategy on digital health to support national efforts to achieve universal health coverage. That strategy is scheduled to be considered at the World Health Assembly in 2020.

Although WHO is expanding its focus on digital health, the Organization has been working in this area for years, through the development of the eHealth Strategy Toolkit in 2012, published in collaboration with International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The guideline stresses the importance of providing 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.

The guideline encourages policy-makers and implementers to review and adapt to these conditions if they want digital tools to drive tangible changes and provides guidance on taking privacy considerations on access to patient data.