Digital health strategy for the times that are a-changing

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Currently, Oakland is in the process of developing its digital health strategy and wants to include as many stakeholders, experts, clinicians and innovators as possible. That is why the government sought advice from medical futurists, why they had a vision for health technologies in April 2017, and why they invited citizens to give feedback on upcoming strategies.

The above health technology vision has also been developed by more than 70 stakeholders and consumers. The government organized five workshops in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for four weeks; participants created content for the vision, defined the most important topics and developed narratives for patients and medical professionals.

The NZ government is also embracing digital health strategies in an open and collaborative manner throughout the healthcare system. In addition, the strategy itself implies the evolution of online content, not rigid documentation. As a result, there will be no “final report,” but the “half-cooked” version will be released under Creative Commons permission, meaning that anyone has free access to them.

NZ Ministry of Health told medical futurists that they strongly advocate an ecosystem approach and want to provide a context for the strategy within Cynefin’s decision-making framework. They also intend to use a competency maturity approach to measuring progress in implementation; a framework developed by WHO.

Medical futurists are proud to be involved in this process and encourage every New Zealander to express their views. It is exciting to see such an important and unique policy being brewed. In particular, because so few governments are willing to take similar measures.

How many countries have the same?

So far, only a handful of governments have realized that the future is digital and healthy, and that they need to be prepared for radical change.

Canada is a good example. Maple syrup countries recognize how large-scale technologies are beginning to shape healthcare, and they want to be the first to guide upcoming changes. A Senate Committee in Canada invited researchers, ethicists, entrepreneurs, and futurists like myself to discuss the way forward. In October 2017, they delivered a presentation entitled “The Future Challenge: Integrating Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing into Canadian Health Systems to Provide Actionable Advice for the Future”.

The Senate Committee noted the power of change in 3D printing technology. Robotics also seems willing to address ethical issues, the legal issues surrounding these new technologies and their impact on the labor market. The group advises the government to host a health discovery forum where entrepreneurs and innovators can showcase their latest health care related work; hold national robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing conferences in health care and set up different working groups to deal with Technical, ethical and regulatory aspects of innovation. I believe this is the way each responsible government brings the healthcare system into the 21st century.

If your country does not, you have reason to be dissatisfied. Ask your own local representative and your government why they are not preparing for the future! If they have not even heard of the word “digital health,” tell them what they are doing in Canada and New Zealand.

But if you are a policy maker who wants to embrace digital health, please contact me. I long for help! Let’s bring healthcare to the 21st century.

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