Digital Health Maturity: How the Commonwealth is delivering on global health targets

01 July 2024
group photo of ministers at the conference

As the role of digital technologies becomes more critical in healthcare delivery, health ministers are moving towards the greater adoption of digital solutions to deliver better health services for Commonwealth citizens.

A ministerial panel, moderated by the Chair of the Commonwealth Center for Digital Health (CWCDH), Prof Vajira Dissanayake, shared best practices for strengthening existing health service delivery models.

The panel featured the Minister of Health of the Seychelles, the Hon Peggy Vidot; the Minister of Health of Bangladesh, the Hon Dr Samanta Lal Sen; and the Minister of Health of The Maldives, the Hon Dr Abdulla Khaleel.

The government ministers shared the country's experiences implementing digital health solutions, such as using electronic health records (EHR) to strengthen information systems. They also underscored the importance of digital health maturity assessments as an avenue to understanding gaps in national systems.

During the event, health stakeholders, digital health experts, and global partners were also provided with information about the Commonwealth’s Technical Country Support Programme on Enhancing Digital Health Maturity. The programme was jointly developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health CWCDH), and the World Health Organization (WHO). They also collaborated on this awareness-raising event in the margins of the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva. 

A ministerial panel at the conference

Assessing Digital Readiness: A critical exercise

Underscoring the value of digital health maturity assessments, the Minister of Health for the Seychelles, Hon Peggy Vidot, said:

“In partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health, and the World Health Organization, we conducted an assessment in October 2023. The final report, released in January 2024, identified existing best practices such as strong high-level support, leadership, and availability of basic infrastructure. However, it also pointed out gaps in digital health standards, strategic frameworks, and relevant workforce development.

To address these, I have made digital transformation of the health sector a priority for my Ministry this year. In January 2024, we held a special meeting to discuss the findings and brainstorm solutions. We have prioritised concrete actions needed to drive change.”

In his opening remarks, the Head of Social Policy Development at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Layne Robinson, said:

“As we stand at the crossroads of the digital frontier, the importance of assessing digital health maturity has never been more critical. A digital maturity assessment is an indispensable tool that can allow Ministries and the wider health sector to understand current digital capabilities, identify strengths and gaps, and chart a path toward comprehensive digital transformation. Many low and middle-income countries within the Commonwealth face significant challenges in implementing digital health provisions. Yet, these challenges also provide a solid ground for innovation and collective problem-solving”.

Sharing best practices

The Director of Digital Health at the World Health Organisation, Dr Alain Labrique, discussed the importance of assessing how countries use digital technologies to deliver quality health services and the importance of using assessment tools to chart a sustainable future. 

He said:

“Today provides us with the opportunity to step back in order to move forward – to recognise the importance of foundations. Our combined work with the Commonwealth to establish benchmarks for maturity is essential to moving towards a possible future where we focus less on quick wins, and more on investing in the fertility of the soil in which we plant the seeds of innovation.”

Since 2023, the Commonwealth’s Technical Country Support Programme on Enhancing Digital Health Maturity has been supporting countries in conducting comprehensive national digital health assessments through a multi-stakeholder in-country workshop.

The first assessment took place in Zambia in July 2023, with the second in the Seychelles in October 2023. The programme will also provide further technical support and capacity-building activities post-assessment to address gaps that emerge, with additional digital health assessments planned for 2024 and beyond.

Media contact

  • Ijeoma Onyeator  Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

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