Today, we stand at the forefront of the digital revolution. Its potential for societal transformation, if embraced equitably, will be pivotal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, including Universal Health Coverage (UHC). At present, around half the world’s population still lacks access to essential primary healthcare and at least 400 million people cannot obtain even the most basic health services. COVID-19 also significantly delayed and harmed efforts towards UHC leaving many countries off track to meet their commitments, it also rapidly accelerated the digitization of health systems.
Given the pace with which new technologies are emerging, a strong policy and regulatory environment, and robust governance mechanisms are needed to ensure a sustainable, equitable, inclusive, and safe digital health transformation.
For this, Parliamentarians are crucial stakeholders in creating a supportive regulatory environment for digital health transformation to achieve UHC goals. Recognizing the significance of Parliamentarians for advancing UHC in the digital age, UNITE Parliamentarians Network for Global Health and Transform Health hosted a webinar (10th November 2023) during Digital Health Week to launch its policy brief, “The Role of Parliamentarians in Supporting Digital Health Transformation” and shared some key asks.
The policy brief calls on Parliamentarians to harness the full potential of digital health as a driver of UHC progress and economic growth, and to keep a “health in all policies” approach.
Delivering health for all in the digital age requires addressing key issues, including curbing the digital divide (coverage gaps, gender divide, affordability, and digital literacy), prioritizing investment and strengthening policy, regulation, and governance mechanisms to ensure an equitable, inclusive, safe, and sustainable transformation.
There is an urgent need to address governance issues, funding strategies and the political will- which is critical to ensure a digitally optimized system becomes a digitally transformative system.
– Frank Smith, Business Development and Strategy Lead at Transform Health
To support the digital transformation of health systems as a driver for UHC, Parliamentarians need to advocate for key policy reforms in the following areas:
1. Allocate sufficient funding and adopt sustainable financing models
2. Strengthen health data governance
3. Preventing and addressing the digital divide, both within countries and internationally
4. Invest in a digitally enabled health workforce
(The detailed description of each of the above stated areas can be read in our policy brief here)
Therefore, to harness the full potential of digital health, we need to set clear priorities, strengthen collaborations, and identify clear actions.
UNITE and Transform Health call on all Parliamentarians to reinforce their commitments to prioritizing digital health transformation, including by:
1. Ensuring adequate and sustainable funding for digital health transformation. Parliamentarians should advocate for increased budgetary allocation, for alternative financing models, and for the creation of a transparent environment that facilitates private sector collaboration and investment.
2. Establish a legal foundation for health data governance to allow the establishment of a comprehensive digitized health system, capable of supporting the nation in reaching UHC.
3. Minimize the digital divide both within their countries and internationally. Ensure that there are adequate infrastructures and economic capacity for all users and workers of the national health system to benefit from digital healthcare services.
4. Promote investment to support the digital enablement of the health workforce to equitable adapt to new technologies. This includes encouraging continuous training programs for health personal and have meaningful engagement with them to use new tools to reach every single person.
5. Implement a “health in all policies” approach, recognizing health as an economic driver and a prerequisite for action in all other sectors.
Parliamentarians are key to supporting countries in reaching their SDGs goals, including the goal to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030. It is crucial that they actively engage to influence their national policies to enable innovation in health and ensure the safe use of health data and inclusive access to digital health technologies for all, and that they have adequate information on digital health to do so.
UNITE and Transform Health are committed to supporting Parliamentarians in this objective.
Read the policy brief on our website here.