What Do We Mean by “Digital Health?

The recent announcement below from the HIMSS organisation of new advances in monitoring your health, digitally, – or progress within clinics and hospitals in having the tech to do so – gives rise to two questions; first, what on earth are we talking about?  and second – do our hospitals care anyway?

The Coronavirus situation has given rise to every flavour of new  monitoring  solution, but this misses the essential point that Coronavirus will not be here, at least in terms of dominating our health – too much longer (apparently) – which means that we need to get back to basics of; what does “digital”, actually mean.

If it means  more remote assessment of patients – yep, that might just now be happening. It has been a knee-jerk reaction, any old cobble together App with a video screen seems to be getting acceptance. If it means remote and/or more intelligent focus on our data, well I’m not so sure. My local surgery still prefers to see me every six months for 45 mins, and never see me in between – than monitor me in real time and have sexy use of my data. And my local hospital is even worse.  So, in brief – the take up of new advances which is what this is all about – is not properly working out. There is a divergence between what the IT vendors can develop – and the willingness of places where sick people go, to actually use the stuff.

Nonetheless, the HIMSS announcement is good news; this is what they say about themselves:

“The current pandemic has challenged every global health system to rapidly scale services to meet the growing demands for care, while public health agencies strive to keep people and populations healthy by mitigating risks of infection, which also serves to reduce demands on health systems. To support global health systems as they look for ways to accelerate and strengthen capacity and resilience as the future unfolds, HIMSS is proud to unveil its global solution, the Digital Health Indicator (DHI).

The HIMSS Digital Health Indicator measures progress toward a digital health ecosystem. 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.

Based in the principles and evidence described in the recently released HIMSS Digital Health Framework, DHI measures the four dimensions of digital health:
1. Person-Enabled Health
2. Predictive Analytics
3. Governance and Workforce
4. Interoperability

To support and inform health system decisions to advance digital health capacity given the current global pandemic, HIMSS is providing free access to the DHI Rapid Assessment tool, a 12 indicator assessment that provides an estimated DHI score mapped against the four dimensions of digital health.

A DHI score provides a baseline understanding of an organization’s digital health capacity and identifies the strengths and opportunities for development of a strategic plan to advance toward a digital health ecosystem.

The Digital Health Framework and DHI are the latest additions to HIMSS’ innovative offerings. Over the past two decades, HIMSS, a not-for-profit organization, has established a portfolio of assessment tools and maturity models that have been readily adopted by health organizations in 50 countries, contributing to their strategic and operational decisions. The DHI builds on these internationally recognized tools to create its comprehensive framework.

“When individuals can connect with their providers and personal ecosystem, they can actively and collectively help manage their personal health and wellness; health system costs are lowered and improved quality outcomes, such as reduced error and adverse events, are achieved,” said Hal Wolf, President and CEO of HIMSS. “The governance frameworks and solutions of most health systems are no longer effective or adequate to achieve the necessary digital health systems of the future. Driving adoption of the Digital Health Indicator (DHI) will help move global healthcare forward to become more accessible, equitable and better performing for every human. This speaks to the heart of our mission.”

“We believe a comprehensive, evidence based framework to define and measure progress towards digital health ecosystems will provide a foundation to advance digital transformation of traditional healthcare delivery. Currently, the dominant focus of health systems is disease management and care for patients that are sick, while the goal of digital health ecosystems is to enable prevention, with people empowered to manage their health to stay well,” said Anne Snowdon, Director of Clinical Research for HIMSS.