Abstract

[This article was originally published in World Health & Population, 17(3)]

Digital tools play an important role in supporting front-line health workers who deliver primary care. This paper explores the current state of efforts undertaken to move away from single-purpose applications of digital health towards integrated systems and solutions that align with national strategies. Through examples from health information systems, data and health worker training, this paper demonstrates how governments and stakeholders are working to integrate digital health services. We emphasize three factors as crucial for this integration: development and implementation of national digital health strategies; technical interoperability and collaborative approaches to ensure that digital health has an impact on the primary care level. Consolidation of technologies will enable an integrated, scaleable approach to the use of digital health to support health workers. 

Purpose: As this edition explores a paradigm shift towards harmonization in primary healthcare systems, this paper explores complementary efforts undertaken to move away from single-purpose applications of digital health towards integrated systems and solutions that align with national strategies. It describes a paradigm shift towards integrated and interoperable systems that respond to health workers’ needs in training, data and health information; and calls for the consolidation and integration of digital health tools and approaches across health areas, functions and levels of the health system. It then considers the critical factors that must be in place to support this paradigm shift. This paper aims not only to describe steps taken to move from fractured pilots to effective systems, but to propose a new perspective focused on consolidation and collaboration guided by national digital health strategies.