Universal health coverage (UHC) is aimed at ensuring all people have access to essential health services without financial hardship – a goal that all countries have committed to through the Sustainable Development Goals. However, progress remains slow across many countries. Digital health transformation and digital tools offer immense potential to accelerate UHC and equitably improve health outcomes. But realising this potential will require focused investment and action.
Transform Health has long recognised the catalytic power of digital health in building stronger, more resilient health systems that can deliver health for all. Our flagship report, “The case for digital health: Accelerating progress to achieve UHC”, outlines the critical role of digital health and needed action to strengthen digitally-enabled health systems. Building on this, last year we launched a new report, “Closing the Digital Divide,” which makes the investment case and calls for increased, better coordinated and better targeted funding in the equitable digital transformation of health systems, as an integral part of overall health system financing.
The Global Digital Health Strategy and the new Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) recognise the role of digital health as “a proven accelerator to advance health outcomes and achieve UHC”, offering opportunities to align convene stakeholders towards this goal. The World Bank’s “Digital-in-Health:Unlocking the value for everyone” report reinforces the concept of blending digital and health investments into one integrated approach.
Digital health must be a core part of delivering UHC
We are seeing an important shift – digital can no longer be seen as an add-on, as a vertical health issue or as an issue merely for the private sector. Digital tools and the digital transformation of health systems must be embedded across health systems and central to UHC strategies.
While the UHC Political Declaration – endorsed by Governments at the UHC High-level meeting in September 2023 – recognised the important role of digital health, it didn’t go far enough to recognise the game-changing potential of digital health transformation as a health system enabler and critical component in achieving Health for all.
We must also go further to bring the digital health and UHC communities together, which still operate far too much as separate groups of stakeholders, despite working towards similar aims. We must merge these conversations and work to deliver faster and more impactful change.
Excited optimism as we look ahead
We are optimistic as we look ahead and to the increased recognition and prioritisation of digital health transformation as a driver of UHC progress.
Transform Health is already a strong supporter and partner of UHC2030, as well as the civil society engagement mechanism (CSEM), as a driving force for UHC to be achieved by 2030. We are excited to now join the UHC2030 Task Force and look forward to supporting the work of the movement, including efforts around the role of digital health and health data governance as key catalysts towards achieving UHC goals.
We also look forward to working with partners as we take forward key priorities to harness the transformative potential of digital health, including through:
- Increased and better targeted funding
- Ensuring a digitally-enabled health workforce
- More robust and equitable governance of health data
- Putting communities are at the centre of digital health, and
- Closing the digital divide
Through digitalisation we can move faster towards our UHC goals. The time for action is now!