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Digital health

At a glance

Health is a core human right. However, it remains inaccessible to citizens in many countries. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development helps its partner countries to implement digital applications that improve the rural population’s access to health care services. The German government supports these countries indirectly by helping them strengthen their health data systems to identify underserviced rural regions and by supplying digital applications that improve the general population’s access to health care services.

Digital approaches play an outsize role. They help civil services and hospitals operate more efficiently. They support health insurance management and supply information needed to make decisions about national health care planning.

By enhancing efficiency and enabling new health management methods, digitalisation improves the selection, availability, accessibility and quality of health care services in order to ultimately improve the health of the entire population. With all these opportunities, digitalisation also presents certain risks in the health care sector. For example, insecure data storage can undermine personal privacy; digital services cannot always be equally delivered to all people; patented software can create long-term dependencies; and the rapid uptake of digital applications can produce fragmentation and duplication due to insufficient regulation, standardisation and management.

To capitalise on digitalisation’s opportunities while minimising its risks, the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development helps its partner countries to strengthen their national strategies and capacities to coordinate and harmonise digital applications. We also increasingly rely on open source solutions and push for strict data security and privacy protection in all our projects.

Implementation

In Nepal, for example, constant technical consulting allowed suitable open source technologies to be expanded and lessons learned to be translated into strategies (Nepal National E-Health Strategy, 2017). As a member of the Health Data Collaborative and adherent to the Principles of Donor Alignment for Digital Health, the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development supports improved donor alignment worldwide (e.g. through shared standards and curricula) and in the partner countries.

In Tanzania, for example, the ministry supports the expansion of the national health insurer’s IT infrastructure into a mandatory health insurance scheme for the entire population. In Bangladesh, it launched District Health Information Systems (DHIS2), an open source software system that enables health data to be shared between 7,000 health care institutions. Similar initiatives are currently being supported in Cameroon, Malawi and Nepal.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development also directly helps its partner countries implement digital applications to improve health care access for rural populations. For example, it enables the expansion of telemedicine networks in Vietnam and Uzbekistan and supports e-learning applications in Afghanistan, Bolivia, Guinea, Nigeria and India.

SORMAS – Epidemic early warning software

SORMAS is an open source software solution that captures disease control data in real time and thus enables surveillance, early detection and control of outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, measles, bird flu and cholera (through contact follow-up and isolation, etc.).

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