The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world has placed children and young people centre stage of the report, as this demographic is seen as the most likely to have the highest exposure to digital technologies.
There is an urgent need to orient digital health priorities towards the establishment of strong health and wellbeing foundations from an early age.
Addressing the role of digital technologies as determinants of health in early childhood was seen as crucial for reducing the social and economic burdens of disease in later life.
The report proposed several action areas, viewed as game changers in shaping health futures in a digital world.
These included making sure that decision makers, health professionals and researchers strongly valued digital technologies as important determinants of health. This in turn would lead to a governance architecture ensuring trust in digital health and regulating powerful players and organisations.
There were calls for a new approach to the collection and use of data in order to protect the individual’s rights, and the requirement for strong ownership of digital health rights and transparent investment roadmaps.
WHY IT MATTERS
Integration of digital platforms has the potential to bring about long-term benefits and the governance of digital technologies in health and health care needed to be driven by public purpose, not private profit – according to the report. Furthermore, it also recommended a greater push to increase public trust of the digital health ecosystem.
Opportunities offered by digital technologies and data also needed to be harnessed in support of public health and Universal Health Coverage.
THE LARGER TREND
Authors of the Lancet and Financial Times Commission said it was intended as a wakeup call for health and digital policymakers on the future realities of the digital health landscape.
Major technology companies have now expanded into the health sector. Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba have all developed mobile phone-based health records, with many more developments in the near future. The report stated that tech companies have embedded themselves into health systems, and will become an integral part of the healthcare network and infrastructure.
ON THE RECORD
Professor Ran Balicer, one of the authors of the report and chief innovation officer at Israel’s Clalit Health Services, said of the findings: “A huge opportunity to reach the key goals that WHO is striving for. We need a governance structure that promotes trust in digital health and innovations and affordability for all. If they are not well governed or steered it may actually steer us away from universal healthcare coverage.
“The availability of digital health data is becoming a crucial cornerstone of enabling the implementation of digital solutions. We need to govern the use of these data in the spirit of data solidarity while preventing harm and misuse of data.
“Security and data privacy is also very important and there needs to be a process by which people voluntarily select how their data is used and for what purposes,” Balicer concluded.