By Lauren Hodsdon, Program Assistant, BID Initiative
Jul 13, 2017
The decade between 2000-2010 can be described as the era of the digital health pilot program. This “wild west” offered a glimpse into the untapped potential of collecting data by integrating digital tools into current health systems, where information flow was previously stagnant or non-existent. In an effort to create lasting, high-impact improvements to healthcare delivery, sharing lessons and best practices learned from implementing these pilot programs can ensure that digital health moves beyond pilots and becomes a health system mainstay.
On June 21, leaders in the field gathered for the monthly Global Digital Health Network (GDHN) meeting, hosted at PATH’s DC office, to discuss lessons from implementing data use partnerships to strengthen digital health strategies and programs. The GDHN, formally the mHealth Working Group, has been convening since 2009, with the goal of engaging and providing leadership to the global community on digital health.
During the meeting, leaders from PATH, Cooper/Smith, and Vital Wave highlighted common challenges addressed by their health system integration programs, including stakeholder engagement and country ownership, health workforce adoption, and interoperability. Dr. Henry Mwanyika, Director of the BID Initiative Tanzania, presented on lessons from Tanzania’s Data Use Partnership (DUP). PATH, in partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, conducted a landscape and gap analysis for the country’s health system and used that information to provide investment recommendations based on government priorities. The Tanzania Digital Health Investment Road Map was created as a result of this analysis to ensure program sustainability through stakeholder engagement and country ownership, by providing the government with the appropriate healthcare data to prioritize and make educated investments in digital health. Hannah J. Cooper, the co-founder and managing director of Cooper/Smith outlined the results from a study on data use and health worker system adoption on the Kuunika project, based in Malawi. The project has three main goals: improve data supply, improve data use, and improve data governance. Brooke Partridge, CEO of Vital Wave and Derek Treatman from Vital Wave, closed the conversation with a discussion on data interoperability within health systems. Vital Wave works with corporations, development organizations, and governments to scale technology solutions for a range of sectors, including health.
Below are several lessons from the GDHN presenters:
As digital health data use programs continue to grow, it is important to capture and share lessons learned to accelerate the field forward in the most influential way.
Amanda BenDor, co-chair of the GDHN added this insight on the program’s overarching lesson: “Sharing tools such as the Tanzania Digital Health Investment Roadmap or the Ethiopia National Health Data Dictionary emphasize the importance of strong governance and leadership needed to implement health information systems. These are complex, yet really important topics for our community to discuss.”