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“Digital health” is the new buzzword/term in healthcare. The concept itself has proven to be quite useful, as was especially demonstrated during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which demanded new innovation and technology amidst the chaos of social distancing and quarantine. Over the past decade, the idea of digital health has transformed from simple patient-portals and rudimentary EMR systems to a more vast ecosystem, ranging from healthcare devices, telehealth services, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and robust data-science. Indeed, many of these new innovations are revolutionizing the way healthcare is being delivered.

The U.S. government has continued to recognize the role of digital health and innovation in healthcare as an integral part of successful healthcare infrastructure.  In fact, entities such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Digital Health Center of Excellence (DHCoE) reiterate the government’s commitment to digital health, and “marks the beginning of a comprehensive approach to digital health technology, setting the stage for advancing and realizing the potential of digital health.” The organization aims to empower “digital health stakeholders to advance health care by fostering responsible and high-quality digital health innovation…” and ultimately serve “patients, developers, health care providers, researchers, industry, payers, other government agencies, international regulatory bodies, CDRH, and other centers within the FDA.”

Last week, the government once again indicated its commitment to digital and technological excellence in healthcare with its announcement to start a new public health informatics and technology development program. The press release indicated that “the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is announcing the establishment of an $80 million Public Health Informatics & Technology Workforce Development Program (PHIT Workforce Program) to strengthen U.S. public health informatics and data science.” One of the goals of the program is “to root out pervasive health and socioeconomic inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and ensure our health care system is better equipped for the next public health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in our public health reporting and data analysis, particularly around race and ethnicity-specific data. Some of these gaps can be attributed to limited technological infrastructure and chronic underfunding of the staff needed to support public health data reporting at the state and local levels.”

The initiative has a clear objective in mind: “The PHIT Workforce Program aims to train more than 4,000 individuals over a four-year period through an interdisciplinary approach in public health informatics and technology.”

Indeed, the aggressive pursuit of training individuals to better work with and innovate in health informatics and data science is an appropriately timed one, as more and more countries around the world are recognizing the value of investing in healthcare infrastructure and digital transformation.

The trend towards digital transformation isn’t solely limited to the public sector. A report by McKinsey & Company explains: “digital technology has the poten­tial to affect every aspect of business and private life, enabling smarter choices, allowing people to spend more time on tasks they deem valuable, and often fundamen­tally transforming the way value is created […] Now that patients around the world have grown more comfortable using digital networks and services, even for complex and sensitive issues such as healthcare [...] we believe the time has come for healthcare systems, payors, and providers to go “all in” on their digital strategies.”

And organizations are going “all in.” A report by global communications and research firm Mercom Capital Group indicates that digital health companies have raised “a record $7.2 billion in VC [venture capital] funding in Q1 2021,” illustrating the astronomical value and interest in this market. Demand has never been higher—organizations and corporations want to ride the top of the wave when it comes to digital transformation, ensuring that their technology is up-to-date, able to better serve their respective stakeholders, and stays compliant with the evolving landscape of regulatory requirements.

Although the rapid pace at which the industry continues to evolve is astounding, regulators, corporations, leaders, and key decision-makers in the space need to ensure the highest levels of quality not only with specific products, but also with regards to ultimately ensuring patient and stakeholder privacy, autonomy, and comfort. This is a critical aspect of achieving successful and sustainable digital transformation.

Initiatives such as the PHIT Workforce Program are a promising step forward in better equipping individuals to face the new generation of healthcare innovation. Time will tell exactly what kind of value and benefits programs like these will provide for society as a whole.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Sai Balasubramanian, M.D., J.D.

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 21.06.2021

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