Digital Tools for Health Workers ‘Can Stem Growing Health Crises’

The report indicates that the impact of digital solutions can only be fully realized if technology works with – and for – people.

Developed in collaboration with Mercer Marsh Benefits, a business of Marsh McLennan, the report indicates that the impact of digital solutions can only be fully realized if technology works with – and for – people. The report was led by the Forum’s Digital Health Action Alliance, which was established to identify opportunities for how digital tools could be used to improve chronic conditions.

Demand for care is rising, with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and hypertension, accounting for 74% of all deaths across the globe. The continued and growing shortage of healthcare workers is exacerbating the challenge, with the World Health Organization projecting a shortage of 10 million healthcare workers by 2030. With 4.5 billion people lacking essential health services today, digital solutions could transform healthcare tomorrow.

“These findings illustrate the urgency of digital transformation in healthcare and emphasize innovative approaches for addressing the rising tide of chronic diseases around the world,” said Andrew Moose, Head of Health and Wellness, World Economic Forum. “Urgent action is required, and the Forum will be exploring how to apply these learnings for greatest impact in both high- and low-income countries.”

The report synthesizes lessons from real world models for implementation, successful case studies on public-private partnerships, a review of commercial digital health solutions, and findings from a survey of over 1,000 community health workers from across the globe.

“With input from over 100 industry experts and over 1,000 community health workers, this report validates that people are the beating heart of healthcare,” said Mercer Marsh Benefits Senior Partner, Global Health Transformation and Sustainability, Lorna Friedman. “A legion of wired community health workers is poised to deliver the promise of universal access through a digital revolution in healthcare that closes the gap in premature death from NCDs.”

Community health workers from both high-income and low-income countries are already engaging with digital health (80%) and the majority (84%) are optimistic about digital health innovation as a reliable path to enhancing impact in their communities, the report finds.

Successful pilot programmes that have combined “offline-first” technology and community involvement to address access barriers to health services are showcased in the report. One such programme, implemented in rural communities in the Philippines by Medtronic LABS and reach52 in partnership with municipal health providers, demonstrated positive outcomes in diabetes and hypertension management. The programme offered in-person and virtual health coaching, monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and delivery of prescribed medicines through a single-subscription digital platform, all of which were largely managed by health workers.

The report also highlights the role of community health workers in expanding access to care for NCDs. The paper develops a framework for paths to increase workers’ capacity through compensation and highlights the crucial role they play in providing healthcare services and education to their communities. By leveraging technology and empowering community health workers, access to care for NCDs can be accelerated globally, the report finds.

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