UN: Smartphones, Digital Technology Can Improve Health Care
VOA News- Lisa Schlein
GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first guidelines on digital health intervention.
The U.N. agency said governments can improve the health of their citizens by using digital technology to make health systems more efficient and responsive to their patients.
The United Nations said 51 percent of the world’s population has access to broadband internet service.
Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said increased availability and use of digital technology offers new opportunities to improve people’s health.
She told VOA the technology enables people, even in the remotest settings, to leapfrog into the development of a more effective, inclusive health system. With the use of mobile phones, computers and laptops, she said it is possible to bypass the intervening stages many countries have had to go through.
“So, a health worker in Congo can directly start using a mobile phone if the government is able to provide one to the health worker and get away from filling 30 paper registers, which occupy about one-third of front-line health workers time,” she added.
The new guidelines include 10 recommendations on how governments can use digital technology for maximum impact on their health systems.
A WHO scientist specializing in digital innovations and research, Garrett Mehl, said the recommendations deal with issues such as birth notification.
“Knowing that a baby has been born is critical to knowing how to provide vaccinations; knowing that the mother needs different post-natal care visits,” he said. “But without knowing that there was a birth that has happened, it is difficult to trigger those events in the health system.”
The guidelines also address privacy concerns.They have recommendations for ensuring that sensitive data, such as issues of sexual and reproductive health, are protected and not put at risk.