Day 1: Scaling Technology Adoption
A wide range of digital health initiatives have been piloted in response to specific healthcare challenges in low and middle income countries. These leverage ubiquitous technologies such as mobile phone networks and devices, combined with increasingly sophisticated national level health information systems and information exchanges. To move beyond the pilot stage, the focus of digital health initiatives has been shifting towards scalability, integration and sustainability, with the goal of improving both health system processes and health outcomes.
The emphasis on scale and sustainability is driven in part by the desire of governments, partner agencies and the private sector to invest in initiatives that provide measurable, long-term impact on the delivery of health programmes.
Practical experience of scaling and integrating digital health in these countries has highlighted intrinsic criteria and enabling conditions that can support new initiatives to reach scale and become fully integrated in healthcare systems.
To assess successful scaling of digital health initiatives, it is first necessary to define ‘scale’, considering the perspectives of end-users, patients, healthcare policy makers and investors, and the unmet needs within the relevant healthcare systems. One definition of successful scale could be when a digital solution is not seen as a separate activity, but is incorporated seamlessly within the healthcare system. Besides integration, other possible aspirations for scale include sustainability, with respect to funding and government support, and the ability to replicate, refine and improve over time.