MITRE this month proposed a comprehensive draft national strategy for digital health focusing on scaling healthcare services and addressing disparities in access.
Its strategic goals, aimed at revolutionizing the health and wellbeing of the public, are intended to “level the playing field around access, technology and care for all people,” as MITRE Chief Medical and Technology Officer Dr. Jay Schnitzer said in a press release.
“Digital health technologies such as telehealth certainly weren’t invented during COVID-19, but their potential to deliver care was most certainly tested and proven,” said Schnitzer. At the same time, he added, “The pandemic also laid bare the health inequities faced by many populations and amplified the risks of further exacerbating the ‘digital divide.'”
WHY IT MATTERS
COVID-19 could act as a potential inflection point for digital health, with policymakers and members of the public primed to welcome innovations.
“To seize this moment, we must have a national strategy for digital health that identifies a set of national priorities and guides the government and industry toward common goals,” wrote MITRE representatives in a draft.
“If we let this opportunity pass, we risk worsening disparities in health by creating solutions that are only available to the privileged few,” they continued.
As MITRE explained, the strategy is grounded in seven guiding principles:
- Empower the individual.
- Every community, every person is important.
- Collaborate and connect.
- The end is improved health and wellbeing.
- The system must learn and adapt.
- Ensure privacy, security, and accountability.
- Be bold.
The principles were used to guide development of a strategic framework, which itself is made up of six broad goals:
- Access, affordability and utilization of universal broadband.
- A sustainable health workforce prepared to use technology to deliver person-centered care.
- Individuals able to use digital technologies to manage their health and wellbeing.
- Interoperability allowing for access to data, information and education.
- A digital health ecosystem that enables public health decision-making.
- Integrated governance.
In the draft national strategy, MITRE representatives emphasized that digital tools enabling improved healthcare are available to some – but not to all.
“The current transformation of healthcare must be more than just the adoption and integration of digital technology with existing healthcare. To be successful, it must be a seismic shift in how we ensure the health and well-being of our citizens,” read the strategy.
“The transformation is social, cognitive and political, with the end goal participatory health – a partnership with digital devices collecting data and generating insights with new models of addressing the health and well-being of our nation,” it continued.
THE LARGER TREND
Several of the goals outlined in MITRE’s strategy seem to align with that of the current presidential administration – especially those focused on universal broadband, interoperability and a modernized digital health ecosystem.
President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal year 2022 discretionary funding published this past month outlined several health IT priorities that reflected such goals. For example, he requested $8.7 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve the national digital health response.
The request also included a $6.5 billion investment toward launching the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, aimed at driving transformational innovation in health research and speeding implementation of health breakthroughs.
And it would provide tens of millions of dollars for broadband connectivity – building on the Federal Communications Commissions’ recently opened emergency broadband benefit program, which offers a monthly Internet discount to eligible households.
ON THE RECORD
“We now have the technology necessary to make sure every resident has the information they need to make the right choices for their health and the health of their families,” read the draft strategy. “We have the ability to instantaneously share data and evidenced-based treatments around the world.
“The decisions that will be made in the coming months and years could set us on course to finally eliminate the tragic health disparities that were exacerbated by COVID-19.”