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National Digital Health Strategy outlined

Culture of safety and quality: Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, outlined the digital health strategy (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A document sharing how Bermuda will “embrace integrating technology, people and systems” in its heathcare service was outlined in the House of Assembly.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said the “North Star” document is central to the Government’s commitment to strengthening the healthcare system and implementing universal health coverage.

She said in order to do so, there is a need for a “digitally integrated and sustainable healthcare ecosystem”.

She reminded the public about a principal set out in the Bermuda Health Strategy 2022-2027, titled Harnessing Healthcare Technology.

Ms Wilson shared the findings of the National Digital Health Strategy, which centres on a “culture of safety and quality”.

“The strategy seeks to entrench quality and safety in the design, development, implementation, and use of digital solutions and services,” she said.

“As part of information gathering about our digital health needs, a three-part consultation took place.

“KPMG engaged community members and health sector stakeholders in two workshops of 22 participants and an online survey of more than 400 respondents.

“The University of Edinburgh conducted a literature review to assess Bermuda’s current digital health maturity level.

“The overall assessment included interviews with more than 40 health stakeholders (primarily physicians) to capture perspectives and needs surrounding the current state of digital health.

“A web-based survey was also conducted and focused on the uses and needs of our existing health information infrastructure. The findings were reported in Digital Health Maturity in Bermuda Current State Assessment.”

A survey of residents was also conducted on how digital tools could help improve care.

Ms Wilson said that by embracing technology, there can be improved information sharing among healthcare providers and enable remote monitoring of a patient’s health.

“Patient portals, mobile health applications, and other digital tools can provide patients with easier access to their health information, enable self-monitoring of health conditions and aid communication with healthcare providers,” she added.

“This can lead to more patient engagement and more consistent treatment plan adherence.”

Technology can also enhance public health management, she said, in areas such as disease surveillance, outbreak management and vaccination programmes, while helping to cut costs in healthcare.

The National Digital Health Strategy sets out four main components: infrastructure; sources of data; application and tools; and strategic foundations.

The infrastructure comprises the critical elements necessary to receive, store and manage health data.

Sources of data include prescription information from pharmacies, lab and imaging results from diagnostic facilities, hospital and primary care records, disease registers and health insurance coverage information.

The applications and tools of most national digital health systems incorporate national patient records, patient portals, service provider portals and national health reporting dashboards.

Strategic foundations encompass governance structures, planning and investment, legislation and regulations, standards to ensure interoperability, workforce skills and training, and monitoring and evaluation.

Concerns raised by the working group that assembled the plan included a potential lack of digital access by and for vulnerable populations.

It also highlighted a shortage of people in the local workforce with the digital skills needed to integrate digital health solutions into clinical workflows.

Ms Wilson added: “This comprehensive National Digital Health Strategy seeks to integrate efficiencies and cost-effectiveness into the healthcare system, while addressing the current expense of our health system and the siloed nature of healthcare delivery in Bermuda.

“It is fundamental both to building a stronger health system and to delivering universal health coverage.”

Strategy recommendations

The National Digital Health Strategy concludes with 15 primary recommendations and 31 secondary recommendations covering governance, national data standards, infrastructure, applications and tools, workforce development, community literacy and awareness, monitoring and evaluation, and planning and investment.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: “For governance, for example, the Digital Health Strategy recommends establishing an interdisciplinary, independent body with authority to oversee the national digital health budget, execution, implementation, digital health policy, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

“For national data standards to provide a foundation for system-wide interoperability and improved data quality, one recommendation is that Bermuda establish and implement national health data standards supported by international bodies and account for the different types of health data, including genomic data.

“For infrastructure, the strategy’s primary recommendation is to build a national digital health platform to collect data from all health system stakeholders that allows for specific and secure access levels according to need and role.

“To progress national digital health, there are four primary recommendations for planning and investment.

These are: defining the budget for the lifetime of the National Digital Health Strategy; establishing multiple financing options to avoid dependence on one financing source; developing a change management-based implementation plan to assist with execution and multi-stakeholder engagement and communication; and promoting digital health innovation and research in Bermuda by developing a well-regulated, interoperable national system ― Bermuda as a regional innovation sandbox for digital health is a long-term, aspirational goal once we have the foundations in place.”

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Published December 09, 2023 at 7:54 am (Updated December 09, 2023 at 7:54 am)

National Digital Health Strategy outlined

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