It was a year ago that China announced the lockdown of Wuhan city, in a bid to contain the explosion of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. In the weeks that followed, the global population witnessed an unprecedented spread of virus that has claimed more than two million lives. As countries struggle to recuperate their economies from the shock, the global response to COVID-19 underscores the importance and power of digital technologies in accelerating the health and well-being of populations across the globe. Also, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst of change and innovation for digital transformation, and paved the way for exponential growth of digital health technologies across countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO), through itsglobal strategy for digital health, provided a framework for countries that aims to achieve four major objectives: promote global collaboration and advance digital health knowledge transfer, advance implementation of national digital health strategies, strengthen governance for digital health and advocate development and use of people-centred digital health systems. This calls for each country to devise national health goals that encompass a broader spectrum of activities including, but not limited to, establishing / strengthening health surveillance systems, managing population health, improving digital health literacy, and devising a national health strategy with the integration of digital technologies for improved care.
Many countries have set up digital health as priority to integrate into the national health strategy. If we look at Germany, the country had, in 2019, passed a Digital Health Care Act, a law aimed at promoting digital transformation of the country’s health systems by catalysing development of innovative technology applications. This timely act has been a boon for the country in fighting the COVID-19 menace with minimal loss of lives.
Today digital health has become an essential component of care giving and delivery, with the advent of digital health platforms based on latest technologies. Wearables and other health devices allow transfer of data enabling remote patient monitoring, and at the same time provide ample scope for personalisation of care. Information and communication technologies have the ability and power to facilitate quality care delivery effectively and efficiently. Despite technological advancements, the healthcare sector has a long distance to cover in achieving the true potential of digital transformation in meeting the global healthcare needs. Developing and implementing a resilient digital health architecture that makes caregiving accessible, affordable while safeguarding patient data augurs well for organisations as they focus on sustained development goals.
The onus is on healthcare organisations to be agile, flexible and adapt to change faster leveraging digital platforms in their pursuit of delivering quality care, effectively and efficiently. The cover story of this issue stresses the importance of building secure and resilient infrastructure for the future of digital health. Richard Farrell of Eaton Corporation throws light on how adoption of emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, Cloud, and automation can help healthcare organisations serve the growing healthcare needs in the Asian region, along their digital journey.