AeHIN General Meeting and Conference 2022
“Accelerating Digital Health towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC)”
10 years of fostering digital health collaboration in Asia
This year’s AeHIN General Meeting coincides with the network’s 10th anniversary.
The AeHIN General Meeting & Conference 2022 is co-hosted with the Department of Health Philippines and is supported by the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and Fondation Pierre Fabre. The event is being held within the Digital Health Week of Transform Health.
The sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed longstanding vulnerabilities in national health systems. After all, many countries were unprepared for virus detection, contact tracing, testing, surveillance, and vaccine roll-out. The pandemic overwhelmed health systems, which interrupted both access to and delivery of health services to populations.
During the pandemic, governments have realized the importance of digital health. Most have developed, adapted and utilized technology as a primary tool to monitor the status and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Countries are leveraging telemedicine, developing applications to support contact tracing and information management (booking patient appointments and medicine deliveries), and integrating their existing and new health information systems.
At the 7th AeHIN GM, we learned from our participants that they experience the same persisting challenges in digital health when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Common challenges encountered in implementing digital health in our region include health workers’ and patients’ behavior towards new technologies, lack of or inadequate access to technology and internet connectivity, evolving nature of laws and regulations on digital health interventions, and funding. Among the lessons learned by countries during the pandemic were monitoring and evaluation of digital efforts to sustain best practices and strengthen areas that need improvement, collecting and sharing data on time for better decision making, working fast with worthy partners, and utilizing digital health technologies in planning the next steps, especially vaccination.
Digital Health in an ongoing pandemic
With the ongoing pandemic and with the realization that digital health intervention is indeed an integral component of health systems, many countries have started to prioritize their digital transformation journey. The pandemic demanded countries to not just achieve UHC, but ensure resilient health systems that can withstand the impact during pandemics. Resilient health systems means that countries are able to minimize the risks associated with unforeseen crises and quickly learn and adapt based on reliable health data.
The commitment for digital health transformation starts with enabling an appropriate digital health environment specific to the country. Without a conducive environment for digital health, digital health will remain as another unsustainable expensive passion project in the health sector. To contribute to the achievement of UHC, digital health at the national level should lay out a clear governance structure and framework to guide the design and implementation of a blueprint (enterprise architecture). This governance structure and framework should ensure that stakeholders understand and follow the blueprint (program management), and adopt standards needed for interoperability.
Amid the pandemic, AeHIN has provided a regional community for countries to collaborate and learn from each others’ practices in digital health implementation, especially in the context of COVID-19 response. In this way, countries have been learning together how to future-proof UHC by scaling-up adoption of digital health. Envisioning an interoperable digital health system for UHC and health systems in Asia, AeHIN is committed to promote learning, resource sharing and knowledge exchange among countries to strengthen digital health through networking.
Accelerating Digital Health for UHC
The ongoing pandemic stresses the urgent need for countries to accelerate their progress towards UHC. Digital health is one of the tools that countries must harness to make healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone. “Digital transformation of health systems can improve the quality and efficiency of health services, extend their coverage to remote and rural populations, reach underserved populations, reduce costs, and foster more inclusive processes for health governance.”¹
From October 10 to 12, 2022, AeHIN will hold its annual general meeting with the theme, ‘Accelerating Digital Health for UHC’. The Department of Health Philippines will co-host the event with support from the World Health Organization Country Office in the Philippines. The meeting will also coincide with the network’s 10th anniversary to celebrate ten years of fostering digital health collaboration in Asia.
Building upon AeHIN’s call to strengthen regional health systems response to pandemics through Governance, Architecture, People & Program Management, Standards & Interoperability (GAPS) Framework, AeHIN will present an updated version of the GAPS Framework (GAPS 2.0) in the general meeting. This framework will be based on an updated digital health needs assessment in Asia, reflecting common and unique digital health priorities in the region in an ongoing pandemic.
The GAPS 2.0 aims to serve as a reference guide for countries and development partners alike in their efforts to accelerate and future-proof digital health for UHC. During the annual meeting, AeHIN will present the updated digital health status and priorities in the region. AeHIN will also invite development agencies to showcase their current digital health programs and projects to align and encourage immediate action for accelerating digital health for UHC.
¹Transform Health Opportunities: Accelerating Progress to Health for All at https://transformhealthcoalition.org/about-us/?var=1653378614