With new Digital Health Indicator, HIMSS hopes global collaboration will lead to speedy innovation

Whether it’s tracking the prevalence of an airborne virus or figuring out the best way to shed those last holiday pounds, healthcare impacts everyone on the planet. 

Today HIMSS launched its Digital Health Indicator, a measure of progress towards a digital health ecosystem that allows the patient to manage their own health with digital tools. 

The organization describes it as “an ecosystem that connects clinicians and provider teams with people, enabling them to manage their health and wellness using digital tools in a secure and private environment whenever and wherever care is needed. Operational and care delivery processes are outcomes-driven, informed by data and real-world evidence to achieve exceptional quality, safety and performance that is sustainable.”

As the coronavirus continues to spread with nearly two million cases worldwide, digital tools have become a popular way to provide care to people in their homes and to manage new costs. 

“Healthcare is incredibly meaningful, valuable and important for every global citizen. There isn’t a country that doesn’t see that as important, but health systems are very expensive,” Anne Snowdon, director of clinical research at HIMSS, told MobiHealthNews. 

This comes at a time when technology has made its way into everyday life, so it’s no surprise that it has also begun to disrupt the healthcare industry.

“People have started to change and shift in what they expect of health systems. They live in a very connected digital world,” she said. “They have expectations for healthcare. We [in healthcare] haven’t been as connected and digital as citizens have become very used to in virtually every other business.”

Today, hospital systems around the world are looking at ways to use tech in response to some of their biggest challenges, including caring for an aging population, reaching remote communities and treating individuals with chronic illness. Snowdon noted that HIMSS is looking to use its global reach to move the dial on digital advancements in healthcare. 

“HIMSS is the only global network I can find that has the reach to well over 50 countries and is growing, and has a mandate to advance those digital technologies and innovations for the sole purpose of supporting the health and wellness of every global citizen,” she said. “That is a very aspirational mandate, but one that I see as desperately needed  now probably more so than even a few years ago.”

Snowdon said that, if used correctly, these new technologies could help alleviate the pressures on the healthcare system and improve patient health around the world. 

“Not only how do we mobilize and take advantage of these impressive digital technologies that are really coming on the market faster than we can imagine what they can achieve, but how do we … get health systems to leverage those same digital technologies to help people manage their own health and wellness and stay well?” she said. “That has the double advantage. When you keep populations healthy and well they have a much better quality of life, they have much greater economic potential and opportunity, and at the same time reduce demand for disease care because people can manage their health and wellness even if they do have a diagnosis and are less heavily relying on health systems.”

But no country can go it alone. Snowdon stressed the importance of international collaboration, and in particular the Digital Health Indicator initiative. 

“This is a strategy, a model, a framework and a measurement tool called the Digital Health I[ndicator],” she said. “It really starts to shine the light on a way … to become extremely high performing health systems, [and] engage the global population and individual people specifically, … and achieve a sustainable health system in terms of cost.”

She said despite the cultural differences in every healthcare system, countries can learn from each other. 

“So even though every country, like Finland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Argentina, have very unique cultures and populations, and that will never change, every one of those same countries … are all challenged by the same [issues]: growing populations with chronic illness that are very complex and difficult to treat once they progress to a certain point, and the need to transform ways to deliver models of care that are much more connected to every individual.”

She gave the example of indigenous health, which is relevant in many countries around the world. 

“For example, Finland has many indigenous remote communities that are difficult to access and there are very few specialty care [providers] or clinicians they can even get close to when they need help,” she said. “Canada is a huge land mass, huge population if someone is not living in a big city with very little access to care. Same with Australia, same in [the] US. So although the context and culture are very different, the challenges and the types of transformational models that every country needs are remarkably similar.”

In the future, she said she sees collaboration as the way to accelerate health innovation. 

“There are things we can learn from each other. There are transformational models of care that are going to benefit many different populations, and HIMSS is in this very unique role to help systems learn from other systems because of its global reach,” she said. “So, if Finland figures out an amazingly effective and possible virtual delivery model, then the HIMSS network is an incredible opportunity to scale that success story and help Canada, Australia, India, wherever, translate it into their unique context and achieve the same, or even greater, outcomes and benefits.”



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