Published on Investing in Health

Digital-in-health: Unlocking the value for everyone

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Digital-in-health goes beyond the conventional understanding of digital health by integrating technology and data across various aspects of health systems. Digital-in-health goes beyond the conventional understanding of digital health by integrating technology and data across various aspects of health systems. Copyright: Erick Kaglan/World Bank

Digital solutions and data are powerful accelerators in the ongoing transformation of health systems and how health care is delivered for everyone. But current approaches are opportunistic, piecemeal, and fragmented.

New thinking—a digital-in-health approach—is needed to get more value out of technology and data, ensuring health systems deliver care that is accessible, equitable and cost-effective.

Digital-in-health goes beyond the conventional understanding of digital health by integrating technology and data across various aspects of health systems, including financing, service delivery, nutrition, research, pandemic preparedness, and medical education. Incorporating digital elements in every part of health systems and their management can make health services more accessible, efficient, affordable, and relevant to the population.

To support countries as they change their approach to digital-in-health, a new World Bank report, Digital-in-Health: Unlocking the Value for Everyone, offers pragmatic advice for governments and stakeholders embarking on this journey, irrespective of their digital proficiency or fiscal limitations.

Fighting long-standing and growing health challenges with digital tools

Health systems have made immense strides in the last years to achieve ‘health for all.’ Challenges remain, as COVID-19 taught us. But the pandemic opened windows of hope into how these challenges could be addressed in innovative and more integrated ways using digital technology and data.

Figure 2 Countries that have been more successful in their COVID-19 responses have embedded technology and data in their health systems. Togo, for example, used digital tools to rapidly roll out an emergency cash transfers to vulnerable populations and vaccinate their citizens. In Indonesia, the Ministry of Health created a digital transformation office to improve health information and digital technology certification processes. These health system reforms are helping the countries move from using data for reporting to using digital technology to delivering services.

Beyond the pandemic, countries have made strides in integrating digital tools and using data to revamp their health systems. In Tajikistan, World Bank support for the healthy nation (Millati Solim) program will support health financing reform and digital technology alongside it. Peru has used connected data systems to streamline and better integrate the health services that they provide.

Unlocking the value of digital for everyone: Prioritize, Connect and Scale

Governments play an essential role: they must foster trust in and build capacity for digital technology use in health systems, promote fairness, and bridge the digital chasm rather than broaden it. To do this well, countries will need to focus on the following three key areas:

  1. Prioritize: Governments need to choose digital solutions responding to people’s health needs and evidence based, and that are equitable
  2. Connect to deliver new, more, better, and seamless health services: through leadership and partnership, data governance and regulations, by filling digital infrastructure gaps and health information gaps
  3. Scale to ensure equitable access to all: improve digital skills and literacy, create synergy with wider digital transformation, nimble public-private and private-private partnerships, and support with financing, monitoring, and implementation.

Countries are at the forefront of this transformation, steering towards a digitally empowered and data-infused future for health. Navigating these waters of innovation will not be without hurdles. But with the right strategy - one that involves strong country leadership, good health data governance, private sector collaboration, evidence-based decision-making, a focus on interoperability and wider digital transformation across government systems and in society, and a keen eye on sustainability – the promised value of digital technologies can be realized for everyone.

Supporting countries to transform health systems

The World Bank, as always, stands as a steadfast ally, ready to support countries in leveraging digital tools to support universal health coverage. Over the past decade, the World Bank has invested almost $4 billion in digital health including in health information systems, digital governance, identification systems and infrastructure.

The World Bank will continue to support countries in their digital-in-health transformation, recognizing that every dollar for health systems strengthening, can be an investment in digital and data making health systems work better for everyone.

To download the report, click here. To learn more about the Digital-in-Health report, please visit this website.


Juan Pablo Uribe

Global Director, Health, Nutrition & Population and the Global Financing Facility, World Bank

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