Population and Public Health

Accelerating Global Health

Global health technology at home


In this episode, host Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, co-founder and president of Catalyst @ Health 2.0 and senior advisor at HIMSS, discusses a wide range of global health challenges with Andrew Trister, MD, PhD, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The conversation begins with an emphasis of the role mobile technologies play as the foundation for so many health interactions. As a main conduit for health information, expansion and better use of mobile is a critical driver of better health outcomes. With the power of the smartphone, new workers can man the front lines of healthcare. From shopkeepers to midwives, to other members of the community, access to information and training enable them to help many people on their individual health journeys.

One important advancement that smartphones can bring is enabling population health to reach the neighborhood level. Interoperability and data analysis allow individual health workers to access information about the people in their community most in need of services. By linking all these levels of the health system together, powerful results can be driven very efficiently.

Dr. Trister talks about new surveillance tools used for recording infant birthweight that smartphones enable, trading traditional sensors like scales for video technologies that can provide more accurate, more actionable information about patients. Often easier to use in difficult environments, these advancements have the potential to power the next leap forward in public health.

An integrated system that allows doctors to respond in real time to data that health workers in the field input creates incredible efficiencies, allowing field workers to effectively help thousands of people receive basic care. Trister emphasizes that the technology and data are not the goal, however. Health is advanced when informed actions are taken based on data, and this discussion pertains directly to the world's COVID-19 response. This emphasis on turning information into action is the call to action for public health around the globe. The conversation closes with a look at the upcoming vaccination effort for COVID-19, with the potential for great success driven by data and for the amplification of misinformation by the same kinds of smartphone-enabled communication systems that power global health innovation. It will be a great challenge to vaccinate much of the planet without letting a few adverse events morph and explode into an avalanche of misinformation and resistance to the vaccine.

The coming years will be an interesting case for the promise and peril of integrated mobile systems.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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