The COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on how telemedicine can help to deliver health care to all, especially for people living in remote areas and underserved communities. Countries around the world have struggled, however, to ensure routine use and long-term sustainable access to telemedicine services—even in those with the most robust health systems.
In order to ensure the sustainable use of telemedicine beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and amongst multiple complex global health challenges, from conflict and disease outbreaks to climate change, WHO has released a new resource to help guide policy-makers, decision makers, and implementers in designing and overseeing telemedicine implementations.
"For telemedicine to have the most impact when and where it is needed, the enabling environment is critical. Investments in national policies, governance, and standards are important to have in place," said Professor Alain Labrique, director, Department of Digital Health and Innovation. "This Guide is not a stand-alone solution, but rather a complementary tool that works in tandem with user-centered solutions that are accessible by all, towards delivering high-quality remote care that is accountable and suitable to the context in which patients live."
Aiming to be a key reference for WHO Member States, this new resource supplements the WHO Digital Investment Implementation Guide, which provides a systematic process for planning and implementing digital health interventions. It outlines practical steps countries can take through a process of planning, implementing, maintaining, and budgeting a telemedicine program to deliver equitable health outcomes.
In addressing barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, the field of digital health and telemedicine has gained particular traction in recent years.
“Our department is proud to have contributed to the development of this guide,” said Dr. Pascale Allotey, director of WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and HRP (the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction). “Telemedicine is an important tool that expands access to critically needed sexual and reproductive health services—but we need to be mindful of the inherent inequities where access to the technology is limited or where there is the potential for harm. This Guide aims to support countries to deliver telemedicine services, while highlighting approaches to optimize and improve health for all.”
WHO recommends that national digital health strategies underpin all telemedicine interventions and include leadership and governance, strategy and investment, infrastructure, legislation, policy and compliance, workforce, and services and applications.
- This press release was originally published on the World Health Organization website