Digital transformation does not simply mean digitizing paper, much less buying software or hardware for health institutions. It means positioning health institutions, their workers and the entire ecosystem where it is developed, including patients, in the digital age. In this article we answer 5 questions that we usually receive about what digitization in health means.
What does digital transformation mean in people’s lives?
If we see it in practical terms and from the point of view of a patient, it would be useless to attend a care center or hospital that has the most modern computers, equipment and software in the world if there were no personnel trained to use it or did not exist. legal frameworks that would allow them, for example, to care for them via telemedicine or record the data of the consultations in portals or electronic systems. And this, which may seem very obvious, has been one of the main reasons for failure in processes of digitization or institutional modernization in which large investments were concentrated solely in the massive purchase of hardware and software, without having been carried out under holistic planning. that considers, mainly, aspects of governance and sustainable management models.
And why is governance a critical success factor?
If we make a metaphor with soccer, it would simply be like thinking that a team that wants to “give good results” applies to a professional league without a coach, an association club and with different rules of the game than everyone else. It would be a team doomed to fail before starting, as well as all the investment, much or little, that has been made around it. Or something even simpler, it is like thinking about starting the construction of a building without having the plans, an approved budget and the trained personnel to do it.
And what are the services and benefits that a person can obtain from a “digitally transformed” health system?
From the possibility of “staying at home” to avoid interrupting treatment for a pre-existing health situation, consulting a doctor without having to move physically, avoiding exposure risk, having access to our medical records at all times and from anywhere, understanding the potential of information and communication technologies, providing data that through artificial intelligence can help all of humanity to find solutions, even managing the overload of information existing on the web, are the main benefits of “being digital”. About this 10 experts spoke to us during a virtual seminar jointly organized between the IDB and PAHO teams that you can see in the video below. It was also emphasized the importance of understanding that the new generations of health workers, decision makers and patients will be better prepared “digitally” and how this will facilitate schemes and processes to work, collaborate and co-create with strategic networks and multidisciplinary teams, allowing thus positioning the health sector in this era that the United Nations has just called the “Era of Digital Interdependence”.
How should health institutions prepare to enter into this process?
With greater or lesser speed, all health institutions in the world are advancing towards digital transformation. And part of the messages that the experts in this virtual seminar shared with us were about the importance of understanding that people’s social behavior has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic in terms of their closer relationship with technology, as well as on the importance of implementing a continuous digital literacy program in the training of human resources, among others.
Can we leave no one behind?
The answer is simple and forceful: “we must not leave anyone behind” and technologies will play a central role in reducing the gaps in social and health inequities, mainly in the most vulnerable groups and populations. But we must understand them to know how to apply them effectively and thus be able to reach the people who need it with the necessary knowledge at the appropriate time, place and format. Only then will we achieve a true “inclusive” digital transformation of the health sector and we will honor the work of heroines such as the teacher Maria Caballero from rural school number 303 in the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina, who walks 10 km every day to leave the homework for his students who do not have internet, leaving them the study material at the gates, who also leaves them drawings with hearts and happy faces and a great recommendation from Public Health “Stay at home”.