Digital health technology – helping to reach beyond hospital walls
The key to realizing improved access to care, while taking SDOHs into account, is not building more hospitals. With digital health technology, monitoring or treating a patient doesn’t have to begin or end in a hospital anymore: remote patient monitoring and virtual care, beyond the walls of the hospital, are now real options.
Therefore, in May 2018, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, agreed on a digital health resolution which urges member states to prioritize the “development, evaluation, implementation, scale up and greater utilization of digital technologies as a means of promoting equitable, affordable and universal access to health for all” .
Digital health technology can play a key role in engaging patients in their personal health, and in collecting both clinical and social data to investigate and monitor the influence of social determinants of health and disease. Capturing the data gives analysts and care providers the opportunity to know which patients are most at risk and how and when to intervene, and to work together with social services to ensure access to high-quality care, improve outcomes, and effectively manage costs.
In this context, it is promising to see that our 2019 Future Health Index report  – based on a survey of 15,000 individuals and more than 3,100 healthcare professionals across 15 countries – shows that digital technology is increasingly being used and appreciated. Healthcare professionals who use digital health records (DHRs) in their practice report that technology has a positive impact on the quality of care provided, on satisfaction for themselves, and on outcomes for patients.
Another encouraging finding from the report is that when it comes to adopting digital health technologies, industrialized economies can learn from forerunner countries like China, Saudi Arabia, India and Russia. In these countries, the percentage of healthcare professionals who currently use some form of digital health technology or mobile health apps is relatively high in comparison to countries with a longer healthcare legacy – e.g. 96% in China, 88% in India, and 85% in Saudi Arabia, versus 76% in the US.