ACCESS Health recently co-hosted a side meeting with Health Futures partner FHI360 on the use of digital technology in achieving universal healthcare. The side meeting was held at Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) in Bangkok, Thailand, a gathering that attracts hundreds of public health professionals from around the world to discuss key policy-related health issues. Our side meeting focused on the challenges that governments face in adopting digital technology for health and examples of on-the-ground digital health use cases.

The side meeting began with a brief overview of ACCESS Health’s publication on the role of digital technology in achieving UHC in ASEAN. Following this, a panel including experts in digital technology and infrastructure in Asia answered questions on topics around interoperability, building a national digital infrastructure, necessary human capital needed to build digital health ecosystems, supporting governments in establishing foundations for digital technology towards UHC, and the importance of connecting doctors, payers, and patients to create this digital health framework. 

Panelist Dr. Krishna Reddy, Country Director at ACCESS Health India, opened the panel discussion by giving an overview of the India’s path toward the National Digital Health Blueprint and the stacks built upon that strategy. The newly created program ACCESS Health Digital Health focuses on harmonizing digital health ecosystems using evidence-based approaches to bridge gaps between healthcare providers, payers, and the government.

Dr. Boonchai Kijsanayotin, Chair of the Asia ehealth Information Network (AeHIN), discussed specifically about the importance of human interoperability – in addition to technical interoperability – in creating successful digital health ecosystems in ASEAN. He noted that many of these challenges have been persistent for decades.

Paul Rueckert, Chief Technical Advisor at GIZ, discussed the current fragmentation of many digital health ecosystems and how some aide groups are contributing to this problem by funding multiple digital technology programs that are running in parallel to each other, instead of cooperatively. He also voiced a vision to create not just interoperable health information systems but rather interoperable government systems across sectors.

Sarah Yee, Industry Consultant for Digital Transformation at Cisco, spoke about the great importance of private-public partnerships in creating national digital health infrastructures in ASEAN. Without these partnerships, we will fail to collect the right data needed – on a micro and macro scale – to make these ecosystems successful. Sarah also emphasized the need for infrastructure to underpin those government systems and why these issues standardization needs to be addressed pre-emptively.

With more than 65 people in attendance, the audience was invited to participate in a Digital Health Challenge Tour, run by FHI360. The tour showcased three case studies on how they are using digital health to reach patients and clinicians directly, advancing access, patient education, and clinician engagement. The audience learned about the application of these platforms, discussed the challenges and successes of implementation, and brainstormed ideas to improve or expand the application of the platform. 

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