According to the World Health Organization (WHO), digital medicine is an indispensable component of future health care. For this reason, the WHO recently published the first guidelines on the use of digital technologies in the health sector.
Digital technologies are indispensable in the healthcare sector worldwide. They help to promote health and provide care in structurally weak regions and rural areas. However, recent years have shown that the use of digital technologies in healthcare needs to be regulated. This is the only way to protect patients from the misuse of their health-related data. Against this background, the WHO has now published a first global recommendation on the use of digital technologies in the health care system.
The new guidelines were developed in addition to the eHealth Strategy Toolkits and the Digital Health Atlas of the WHO and show the increased efforts of the WHO to standardize developments in the digital health system in the long term and to harmonize them worldwide.
Over the past two years, the WHO, together with experts, has systematically reviewed the latest findings on the use of digital technologies in health care. On the basis of these findings, the present recommendations for use have now been drawn up.
The advantages of using digital technologies in medicine are obvious. For the good of human health, for example, e-health services are already being used in many areas:
However, despite the euphoria of the new digital possibilities, it is also clear that digital applications alone cannot offer a comprehensive solution to health issues. Digital technologies cannot and should not replace the physician as the point of contact for patients in the health care system. However, it also appears that the integration of digital technologies into the healthcare system poses major challenges. But it is precisely in rural areas or in regions with insufficient care that digital medical services offer an opportunity to close a gap in care at least in part.
However, the demands placed on the services are also deliberately high: digital technologies must be able to be integrated into the existing healthcare system and bring demonstrable improvements for both patients and specialist staff. User friendliness is the order of the day here.
At the same time, the protection of patient-related data must be guaranteed always and everywhere. This requires training of medical staff on the opportunities and risks of the new digital medical world. According to the WHO, for example, health personnel need to be able to:
The core idea of WHO's new digital guideline is to make telemedicine available to people in remote locations, in order to provide health services via mobile phones, web portals or other digital technologies. Telemedicine should always be regarded as a valuable addition to the personal doctor-patient interaction, but should not and will not be able to replace the latter. In addition, it must be ensured that digital consultations are always carried out by qualified medical staff. The protection of health data must be guaranteed under all circumstances.
News Release: WHO, "WHO releases the first guideline on digital health interventions", 17 April 2019. Full article here.