On August 18, 2023, the World Bank issued a publication entitled, “Digital-in-Health: Unlocking the Value for Everyone (“World Bank Report”),” which recommends to governments a new digital-in-health approach where digital technology and data are infused into every aspect of health systems management and health service delivery to improve individuals’ health outcomes. The stated goal of the World Bank Report is to provide governments and other stakeholders with practical guidance on how to build digital health infrastructure, regardless of a country’s digital maturity or fiscal challenges.

The World Bank Report proposes the “digital-in-health” mindset—a new way of thinking from simple digitization of health data to fully integrating digital technology in health systems. It proposes infusing digital technologies in health financing, service delivery, diagnostics, medical education, pandemic preparedness, climate and health efforts, nutrition, and aging. It also underscores that the successful use of digital technologies must be inclusive of all population groups and ensure access to digital infrastructure, modern technologies, and skills, especially for vulnerable people.

Through country-specific case studies, the World Bank Report considers the maturity of the digital aspects of low- and middle-income countries’ health systems and identifies the challenges that countries face in further maturing the digital aspects of their health systems. To support countries’ efforts to address the determinants of digital-in-health progress, the World Bank Report issues recommendations to governments. Specifically, it proposes ten recommendations across three priority areas for governments to support countries’ efforts to help countries make progress in prioritizing, connecting, and scaling up digital technology and data:

  • Prioritize digital intervention to solve health challenges
    • 1. People- and problem-centered choices: Choose digital technology that responds to people’s health needs and is evidence-based
    • 2. Reaching the underserved: Choose digital solutions that improve access and availability of health care services to vulnerable and marginalized groups
  • Connect to deliver new, more, better and seamless health services that a changing world requires
    • 3. Leadership and partnership: Drive digital action within and across sectors through strong country leadership
    • 4. Data governance: Increase the use and reuse of data to realize greater value, while reinforcing ethical standards and regulatory systems to ensure equitable and trustworthy digital solutions
    • 3. Digital infrastructure and health information gaps: Connect facilities, services, information, and people, and fill health information gaps by connecting siloed information systems
    • 4. Global and regional collaboration: Global and regional solidarity to support countries as they lead digital investments in their health systems
  • Scale to ensure equitable access to health care for everyone and leave no one behind
    • 7. Digital skills and literacy: Help patients and providers understand, trust, and confidently use new technology and data
    • 8. Nimble public-private and private-private partnerships: Innovate how the private and public sectors work together in designing, delivering, and funding digital solutions
    • 9. Wider digital transformation: Create synergy between the health system’s efforts and the wider digital transformation agenda in a country
    • 10. Financing and implementation: Finance enough at the right time, monitor implementation progress, and track outcomes

To make “digital-in-health” a reality, the World Bank Report states that global, regional, and country leadership must involve all relevant sectors and stakeholders, including civil society, in its efforts. It explains that digital technology and data improvements will involve investments beyond the health sector and new partnerships with the private sector. Notably, the World Bank Report also highlights the increased role that artificial intelligence, big data, and similar rapidly developing technologies will have in the digital health ecosystem.

Takeaways

The World Bank has issued in recent years publications and highlighted initiatives recognizing the importance of the digital economy and the ways in which digitalization supports development goals. In 2022, the World Bank committed to supporting five pillars of the global agenda for digitalization and development: (a) digital infrastructure, (b) digital platforms, (c) digital enablers, (d) digital safeguards, and (e) the crosscutting areas of gender and social inclusion and regional and international collaboration. The World Bank Report is the most recent action to outline the digital-in-health strategy and encourage government investments in digital technologies for their health systems.

Similar to publications issued by other international organizations, the World Bank Report highlights equity issues with access to digital technologies for health and argues that strong ethical standards and regulatory systems are essential to a stable digital ecosystem. Companies may want to consider how the recommendations included in the World Bank Report impact organizational goals and regulatory compliance programs. For international companies, the recommendations may be particularly helpful to inform policies and government engagement strategies as global adoption of innovative health technologies continue to evolve.

For more information on how this report could impact your organization, please contact the professionals listed below. Follow Crowell Health Solutions’ Trends in Transformation blog for the latest updates and analysis.

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Photo of Jodi G. Daniel Jodi G. Daniel

Jodi Daniel is a partner in Crowell & Moring’s Health Care Group and a member of the group’s Steering Committee. She is also a director at C&M International (CMI), an international policy and regulatory affairs consulting firm affiliated with Crowell & Moring. She…

Jodi Daniel is a partner in Crowell & Moring’s Health Care Group and a member of the group’s Steering Committee. She is also a director at C&M International (CMI), an international policy and regulatory affairs consulting firm affiliated with Crowell & Moring. She leads the firm’s Digital Health Practice and provides strategic, legal, and policy advice to all types of health care and technology clients navigating the dynamic regulatory environment related to technology in the health care sector to help them achieve their business goals. Jodi is a contributor to the Uniform Law Commission Telehealth Committee, which drafts and proposes uniform state laws related to telehealth services, including the definition of telehealth, formation of the doctor-patient relationship via telehealth, creation of a registry for out-of-state physicians, insurance coverage and payment parity, and administrative barriers to entity formation.

Photo of Adrienne Mendenhall Adrienne Mendenhall

Adrienne Mendenhall works toward improving human health, on projects spanning sectors and industries. Her expertise and passion enable collaboration and innovation in the fields of climate change, global health, and financial inclusion.

With a background in public health and clinical care settings, Adrienne

Adrienne Mendenhall works toward improving human health, on projects spanning sectors and industries. Her expertise and passion enable collaboration and innovation in the fields of climate change, global health, and financial inclusion.

With a background in public health and clinical care settings, Adrienne works to forge new partnerships that increase access to high-quality, affordable care. She applies a patient- and community centered approach to her work with industry, government, and development organizations. Focusing on the nuanced determinants of health and healthcare access, she explores the complex dynamics that underlie health policy and influence decision making—from communities to national health systems.

Adrienne specializes in conceiving strategy, building networks, devising and launching novel platforms for advocacy and innovation, and developing messaging that resonates with a diverse range of audiences. She advises governments, life science organizations, and technology companies on the use of data and technology for universal health coverage; on creating an enabling regulatory environment; and on designing and launching innovation programs. She has advised on the role of central banks in innovative health financing and has created forums for inter-governmental coordination that strengthens health systems and promotes health equity. With an emphasis on aging and healthy longevity, financing, health services, digital health, and the impacts of urban design and climate change on health, she brings an understanding of community needs to global health challenges.

Photo of Allison Kwon Allison Kwon

Allison Kwon supports Crowell Health Solutions, a strategic consulting firm affiliated with Crowell & Moring, to help clients pursue and deliver innovative alternatives to the traditional approaches of providing and paying for health care, including through digital health, health equity, and value-based health…

Allison Kwon supports Crowell Health Solutions, a strategic consulting firm affiliated with Crowell & Moring, to help clients pursue and deliver innovative alternatives to the traditional approaches of providing and paying for health care, including through digital health, health equity, and value-based health care. She is a health care policy consultant in the Washington, D.C. office.