The AeHIN General Meeting (GM) is an annual gathering of government, development partners, non-government organizations to discuss the latest trends with digital health governance, architecture, program management, standards, and interoperability.
The Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN) promotes better use of information communication technology (ICT) to achieve better health through peer-to-peer assistance and knowledge sharing and learning through a regional approach for greater country-level impacts across South and Southeast Asia.
- Since AeHIN’s inception in 2011, it understood that the success of eHealth (now called digital health) hinged on strong leadership and governance.
- At the 2015 Bali conference and 4th General Meeting, the AeHIN Regional Enterprise Architecture Council for Health (REACH) was launched. By this time, AeHIN already had members who were certified in COBIT5 (IT Governance) and enterprise architecture (TOGAF) to form a special interest group.
- By the 5th General meeting in Myanmar in 2017, the Network’s knowledge had grown exponentially and new concepts were introduced and imbibed by its members, to wit: that countries must look after four areas to succeed with digital health — governance, architecture, program management, standards and interoperability summarized as AeHIN’s Mind the GAPS framework.
- In the 6th General Meeting and Conference on Interoperable Digital Health for UHC, AeHIN expressed its commitment to actively participate in the Health Data Collaborative, Digital Square, and Global Digital Health Network to ensure that it creates a platform for communication between countries and the donor community.
- Further, the Network realized there are industry-accepted frameworks for governance and management of national eHealth architectures. Some are generic (not specific for health such as ISO 38500 and COBIT5) while one in particular to health (ISO TR 14639). For enterprise architecture, AeHIN has embraced TOGAF and PRINCE2 for project management. For standards, AeHIN has created the Community of Interoperability Labs or COIL, a collection of in-country interoperability labs sharing architectural artifacts, tools, and methodologies aimed at catalyzing the growth of interoperable eHealth systems in their respective countries with a secondary potential for regional interoperability. Currently, the COIL consists of in-country labs from Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The COVID-19 pandemic made us realize that digital health intervention is an imperative component of health systems and not just an add-on value to optimize investments in the health sector. Governments at all levels (local, subnational, and national) turn to digital technologies to address the pandemic’s effects and prevent further transmission. These digital health interventions manifest in pandemic response efforts such as disease surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine management, and clinical care.
With the risk that comes with face-to-face interactions, telemedicine/telehealth emerges as a crucial solution in minimizing risk for both patients and healthcare providers by enabling remote and real-time healthcare service delivery. Today, more than ever, digital technology disrupts not just geographical barriers that limit healthcare access but also unprecedented barriers brought about by an evolving pandemic and society’s ‘new normal.’
Health systems at the national level will succumb to the perils of COVID-19 without digital technologies that can scale-up pandemic management response. Data and information from these digital health implementations are crucial in directing decisions for border restrictions, quarantine timelines, resource prioritization, and overall pandemic response strategy. That’s why it is critical for the national pandemic response to be inclusive of all members of the populace, ensuring that no groups are left behind in the name of digitalization.
Governance is still the key to effective and safe implementation of digital health. While the demand for digital health is heightened during a pandemic, governments must ensure that citizens’ data privacy rights are upheld at all times. Thus, governments must incorporate the ethical use of digital technologies in crafting new health-related policies and regulations for pandemic response.
At the regional level, we face and share the burden of a pandemic in the same way that we also share lessons learned along the way, especially in implementing digital health amid COVID-19. The 7th AeHIN General Meeting, which will be conducted virtually, aims to promote a regional set of principles and call-to-action in adopting digital technologies for pandemics. With networking as its foundation, the annual meeting hopes to be an avenue for knowledge sharing across South and Southeast Asian countries.
(updated 05 Jan 2021)