EHS-COVID (480) Q2 How have you responded to the challenges of COVID-19? (6) Digital health (4)

26 November, 2021

HIFA is assisting WHO to develop a collection of Action Briefs, which you can review here (including two Action Briefs based on HIFA discussions):

If you have an innovative approach to share on maintaining essential health services during COVID-19, please submit your Action Brief here:

Meanwhile, I would like to recommend this Action Brief by HIFA member Arvind Mathur (WHO Representative, Maldives)

The use of digital technology to optimise service delivery platforms

Dr Arvind Mathur, WHO Representative, Maldives

Key Learning Points

• Digital health strategies can play a key role in maintaining the continuity of essential health services across all levels of the health system.

• Scaling up such interventions in a short time period can present particular challenges with regards to governance and interoperability with existing platforms.

• Integration of digital health into existing service delivery platforms may have unintended consequences, i.e. widening inequities for vulnerable and marginal populations who may not have access to, or familiarity with, telemedicine platforms.


'During the lockdown, service delivery platforms were optimized to maintain essential health services. This included strengthening digital health services by leveraging existing internet connectivity in the country...

'Telemedicine services were scaled up to allow for online consultations between health workers and patients at the primary health care level. This was supplemented by electronic prescription of regular medications for vulnerable groups (i.e. patients in long term care facilities or with chronic, complex health conditions). Furthermore, a tele-consultation programme was developed with partner hospitals in India to provide specialist clinical input for patients with complex health conditions in secondary and tertiary care, who were unable to travel abroad for treatment. This was to mitigate the impact of international travel restrictions due to the pandemic...

'A particular challenge in scaling up these interventions was limited in-house technical expertise in establishing online service delivery platforms... The lack of an integrated electronic patient record system within health facilities hampered communication and continuity between different providers.'

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,