CD59/6 - Roadmap for the Digital Transformation of the Health Sector in the Region of the Americas

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1. Frequently, those who need most from the health system are those who have least access to it. Digital technologies have the potential to increase access, but populations with the greatest health vulnerability typically have the lowest levels of digital health connectivity and literacy. In the Region of the Americas, hundreds of millions of people continue to experience structural discrimination, exclusion, and inequality due to lack of access to digital technologies and to the potential health benefits associated with their use. There is an urgent need for digital transformation of the health sector, but it must specifically aim to ensure equitable access to all populations, especially those living in situations of vulnerability. A non-equitable approach to digital transformation could end up being counterproductive, disadvantaging vulnerable populations even more.

2. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for a rapid adoption of digital solutions in public health. Information systems and digital health solutions that are accessible and ready to use have proved crucial to the delivery of care at all levels of the system: the patient, the community, the care team, the health care organization, and the political and economic environment. Digital solutions will also be key to post-pandemic recovery and rebuilding. The response to the pandemic has shown that for digital solutions to be effective, systemic changes are required. Such changes can result in new and innovative ways to fulfill the mandate of the health sector.

3. This policy aims to support ministries of health to participate in a safe, ethical, equitable, inclusive, and cost-effective way in the digital transformation processes of governments, with a view to accelerating the adoption and implementation of interoperable digital health solutions across all sectors through a multi-stakeholder approach. As digital health tools vary in scope and purpose, this requires an understanding of the specific value and requirements of each technology, but should also consider access to mobile phone, electricity and internet. Also needed are guidelines that will help countries co-create and adopt joint solutions and develop public policies, taking into account the perspectives and knowledge of multiple stakeholders. This process should always be guided by respect for individual rights, by ethical considerations regarding management of personal data and by informed consent, with particular focus on privacy, security, ownership, safekeeping and confidentiality.