Digital Health

2021 Acceleration: Digitizing Public Health

In 2021, the world is facing a critical demand for the acceleration of health, which can only be addressed by first establishing a proper diagnosis. Members of the HIMSS leadership team have identified some of the common problem areas we share as a global society and a health citizenship, and they have provided recommendations on how best to meet this need for acceleration. Ultimately, the accelerated delivery of solutions in healthcare is vital to realizing the full health potential of every human, everywhere.

Information technology has always been at the center of innovation. It has created a path for the best data to be delivered at the right time to guide accurate and informed decision-making, an approach that is leveraged across industries. However, in healthcare – due in part to a complex array of stakeholders, a web of IT systems, concerns around data privacy and safeguards to protect patient health and safety – innovation has often lagged. That is, until now.

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Rob Havasy


"Open source and the internet were the great unsung saviors of the COVID pandemic. We will look to those success stories and make them the foundation of the public health response of the future."
– Rob Havasy, Senior Director of Connected Health


The unsung hero of this pandemic is the Internet. During the Covid-19 pandemic, almost everyone in the world shifted two very personal and very important things online with great success: the education of our children and our healthcare. We’re going to see a continuing shift in the way patients approach care after this, with people more open to digitizing other areas of their lives. Despite early concerns about whether the Internet could sustain the increased traffic, its design to survive a nuclear attack made it even more resilient than its creators could have hoped.

The Internet made a huge difference in our ability to fight the virus. Open source documents helped advance care for acute COVID-19 patients, maybe more than any other tool early in the fight. Whether it was Chinese citizens archiving what they were seeing in the epicenter, or Doctors of the World translating official WHO and other medical resources into sixty languages, information flowed freely and almost instantly. Later, doctors in areas of the US hit early in the pandemic wrote a daily stream of consciousness of what they were learning. These open documents helped other clinicians better understand the role of ventilators and lead to changes ventilator protocols.

We must look to these successes and see the Internet as the great enabler of moving knowledge quickly, equitably and as the foundation of the future of public health. We will need to share more data in order to see potential emergencies more quickly. And the economic disruption of COVID will force us to build public health infrastructure out of parts that already exist, and turn those pieces into a system, instead of paying to build a new one from scratch.

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