The 2017 Global Digital Health Forum – Celebrating new ways of thinking for global digital health
The annual Global Digital Health Forum is scheduled for December 4-6th in Washington DC. Though the Forum features amazing presentations every year, one of the most valuable aspects of this event is having the world’s digital health implementers, donors, and champions in one space. The dialogue and strong relationship building between ministries of health leaders, technical developers, and other players in our field is what makes this conference special.
This year’s theme – The Evolving Digital Health Landscape: Progress, Achievements and Remaining Frontiers – captures the spirit of progress made in the past several years to improve digital health systems and takes a critical look at the continued need for innovation to improve health outcomes. PATH joins the Forum once again to share our experiences and technical knowledge through a variety of workshops and presentations.
What excites me about the field of global digital health is that the community is collaboratively working together to unlock new paradigms in global health, demonstrating the value and impact digital technologies and systems have on health outcomes. For example, governments are taking ownership of their eHealth visions and strategies – engaging more with private sector as well as donors and NGOs. Health information system interoperability is making inroads through standardized health architecture approaches, harnessing open standards and open source systems. And the way we work is evolving: donors and partners are coordinating and collaborating in new and different ways through programs such as the Health Data Collaborative, accelerating alignment of investments and resources.
As one of the Co-Chairs of the Global Digital Health Network, which co-sponsors the Forum, I’ve been preparing for this event since the summer. Here are a few of the topics I’m excited to see featured at the Forum this year.
Sustainability and Scale
We are at the point in digital health where platforms and mobile technologies are scaling and have scaled. I’ve always enjoyed the conversations around “What does scale really mean” and the Forum will indeed address this question and more. Additionally, I’m excited to hear experts share their stories as well as important insight on how to continue supporting scaled solutions. The BID Initiative will be featured in several sessions on scale including a hands-on workshop to highlight their experience building immunization systems for scale in Tanzania and Zambia.
Digital Impact on Population Redistribution
One of the trends both driving and impacting the global digital health sector is population redistribution, specifically displacement of persons due to political conflict. The Forum will feature a session exploring how aid organizations are harnessing data and analytics to save lives in some of the world’s most fragile states. I am looking forward to learning how we can further apply advanced analytics in all of our digital health work.
Digital Financial Transactions and Digital Currency
One of my favorite topics, Blockchain, is being featured this year! Digital payments are not new but how our field adapts to integrate blockchain technology remains a question. The Forum will feature a panel of experts who will share their experiences applying blockchain technology, such as Bitcoin, outside of the global health sector. This is an important trend to watch as the growth in digital currency will have increasing impact on digital health in the next five to ten years.
The enthusiasm around open source tools and platforms is not new. However, how to apply an “open approach” is trending, particularly through open standards and open data. I’m excited to see how the global digital health community is embracing open source technology and using approaches such as OpenHIE to make systems, mobile applications, and other digital platforms interoperable.
Digital Health Toolkits
Applying digital health tools as well as how to operationalize digital health programs can be daunting, which is why toolkits are useful resources for implementers at all levels of the health system. The toolkit fair will help implementers decide which resources to turn to when planning, implementing and evaluating digital health systems.
There are so many other exciting topics at this year’s Forum. You can view all of the speakers and session descriptions through the online agenda. You can also follow the conference on Twitter at #GDHF2017 and we will share the PATH and BID Initiative presentations as they happen. Whether you are able to join the Forum in person or you plan to follow along virtually, I hope to hear from you about what global digital health trends and programs have excited you over the past year.