World Health Organisation publishes 10-point guideline on digital health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a guideline for the use of digital health interventions to strengthen health systems, recognising the opportunity for digital technologies to help achieve universal health coverage.

"The use of digital technologies offers new opportunities to improve people's health," says Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the WHO, "but the evidence also highlights challenges in the impact of some interventions. If digital technologies are to be sustained and integrated into health systems, they must be able to demonstrate long-term improvements over the traditional ways of delivering health services."

After two years reviewing the evidence base for the use of digital health, and consulting with experts, the WHO has published this guideline with ten recommendations to help countries for the successful implementation of digital health technologies. The guideline highlights data exchange and security, the need for adequate training for health workers, and telemedicine, particularly as a means for reaching people in remote locations.

The recommendations in full:

  1. Birth notification via mobile devices
  2. Death notification via mobile devices
  3. Stock notification and commodity management via mobile devices
  4. Client-to-provider telemedicine
  5. Provider-to-provider telemedicine
  6. Targeted client communication via mobile devices
  7. Health worker decision support via mobile devices
  8. Digital tracking of clients' health status and services (digital tracking) combined with decision support
  9. Digital tracking combined with decision support and trageted client communication
  10. Digital provision of training and educational content to health workers via mobile devices/mobile learning

The WHO's guideline follows the announcement in March 2019 of the creation of a Department of Digital Health to enhance its role in assessing digital technologies and to support Member States in prioritising, integrating and regulating them.