10 ways through which countries can use digital health technology - Seeker's Thoughts

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10 ways through which countries can use digital health technology


Why digital healthcare is important?
Digital health technology is increasingly popular around the world, perhaps unsurprisingly, as around two-thirds of the world’s population owns a Smartphone, according to the pre-Research Centre.

But as the technology grows in adoption, expert warns 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.
When it comes to lifestyle diseases, the older population is at a higher of hypertension; men more than women. Rural areas are affected worse owing to a lack of proper medical facilities. 

 It wouldn’t be wrong to name hypertension, or high blood pressure a fatal issue because it leads to a number of heart-related issues, such as ischemic heart disease (IHD) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD), causing numerous deaths.

Statistically, IHD accounted for 53% of deaths in India, while CVD accounted for 25.1% of deaths between 2005 and 2006. The technology can certainly help in reducing these diseases. 
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Benefits of Using digital technology in health care

1.    The data Collection

One of the major challenges to the optimal treatment of hypertension is that patients are not aware of their blood pressure trends as most of the patients either don’t record readings or they might record the readings manually. 

This causes an error and the data is not very beneficial to the physicians while treating the patient as there is no analysis that can be made out of such data.

Save the children, an NGO, estimates that at least 60%of the infant deaths are due to easily preventable cause such as pneumonia and diarrhea. 

This translates a horrific number of half a million infants per year. These data can be gathered easily with the help of technologies.

2.    Distance would not matter

 Some of the ground level realities that the citizens face is the severe shortage of doctors (1 for 19,000 people in UP), traveling long distance for critical care, and no transparency or information during treatment. 

An average person has to travel 200km away just to get basic medical services at a district hospital.

There is also a serve problem of underfunding in India as a % of GDP in India (2%) vs. China, the inability to use technology, poor facilities, and untrained/ill-trained staff. Out of 20,251 sub-centres in UP, not one meets public health standards. 

Therefore, services can be delivered through digital technologies like providing videos for preliminary care, and even delivering essential medicine with the help of drones by tracking locations in Mobile.

3.    Proper Management

In addition to the mismanagement, there is also a problem of misallocation of resources. It is estimated that 16% of the population gets only 9% of healthcare funding in India.  

4.   More empathic environment

A natural consequence of this ineptitude is a public that is resentful and apprehensive of an increasingly apathetic and exploitative healthcare system Leading to lashing out physically and verbally at doctors.

India medical association, a professional body for doctors, reports that 75% of doctors have been either physically or verbally assaulted. It is in this grim reality that we believe digital healthcare can have a monumentally positive effect. 

The convergence of biology and technology has started the next major revolution of mankind which is bigger than industrial and technology revolutions. Points of care diagnostic tests, medical grade (US FDA approved), low-cost digital sensors & monitors and virtual care are becoming a reality. 

5. Creating the digital bridge to healthcare with real-time data

The advances in technology and the proliferation of smart devices in healthcare mean that the volume of data being collected has grown in magnitude. The challenge is to collate all this data from the field, analyse it sensibly and take decisions based on the story being told.
Health system now has the opportunity to be learning system if they act on local data and adapt based on locally-identified needs and challenges. 

For instance, the state-level disease burden estimates produced by the Indian Council of medical research, the Institute for health metrics and the public health foundation of India (2017) demonstrated the wide variability in the cause of death and disability between states.
While southern states like Kerala and Tamil nude experienced an epidemiological transition (from more of communicable to non-communicable diseases) in the late 1980s, the central and northern states took another 20 years. 

Today, while some districts in India enjoy health parameters similar to Western Europe, others are more like sub-Saharan Africa.
Real-time data from health facilities, including complete and high-quality records on the causes of death, is critical for health policy planning and allocation of resources.
 
 A special drive is needed to ensure complete birth and death registration. In the absence of real data, one is forced to use modeling and other methods of estimation, which have their own limitations.

The national family health survey done once every five years is a useful source of information on many health parameters, but such a massive exercise cannot be repeated too often.
Data from other sectors is also critical for health. The percentage of land under green cover, levels of air pollution, water quality and the diversity of diets—all have important effects on individual and community health. 

As India urbanizes, it will be important to ensure the availability of open spaces, as well as bicycle lanes and pedestrian zone in order to encourage walking and cycling.
This will have benefits for individual health by reducing obesity pollution and fossil fuel use, contribute to climate change.


India’s initiatives to improve digital healthcare
India hosted 4th Global Digital Health Partnership summit at New Delhi to provide an opportunity to support governments and health system reforms in improving the health and well-being of their citizens through digital technologies.

It was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Global Digital Health Partnership.

What is the Global Digital Health Partnership?
It is an international collaboration of governments, government agencies, and multinational organizations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their citizens through the best use of evidence-based digital technologies. 

Governments are making significant investments to harness the power of technology and foster innovation and public-private partnership that support high quality, sustainable health and care for all. 

The GDHP facilitates global collaboration and co-operation in the implementation of digital health services.
The GDHP established in February 2018 to provide an international platform for global collaboration and sharing of evidence to guide the delivery of better digital health services within participant countries. The secretariat service for the GDHP is provided by Australian Digital Health Agency for the initial 18 months.



WHO Has released some guidelines on use of Digital Health Technology

WHO has released new recommendation on 10 ways through which countries can use digital health technology which is accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers to improve people’s health and essential services.


WHO Recommendations

The guideline demonstrates that health systems need to respond to the increased visibility and availability of information. It is also designed to help decision-makers in government health departments; the public health sector and other stakeholders, better understand now digital tools could address their population’s health needs.
 
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The recommendation advise on everything from how to employ digital tools for birth notifications to implementing health worker decision support tools and using telemedicine to digital health education services.

The guideline emphasizes the importance of providing supportive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure, as well as policies to protect the privacy of individuals, and governance and coordination to ensure these tools are not fragmented across the health system.

People must be assured that their own data us safe and that they are not being put at risk because they have accesses information in sensitive health topics, such as sexual and reproductive health issues.

The guideline underlines the importance of reaching vulnerable populations and ensuring that digital health does not endanger them in anyway.

Recommendations were based on the two-year-long research by the WHO on digital technologies, including consultations with global experts, so that such tools may be used for maximum impact on health system and people’s health.

Recommendation of WHO's  to use digital technologies in health care- 








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