WHO Publishes Recommendations To Increase Telehealth Utilization

In order to increase the use of telehealth, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a guide that included a number of suggestions and strategies for continued telehealth adoption. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of telehealth in providing healthcare to everybody, particularly to those who reside in rural locations and underprivileged populations. Even in nations with the most advanced healthcare systems, it has been difficult to guarantee widespread adoption and long-term sustainable access to telehealth services.

Despite the fact that these services have typically been effective and accessible, the WHO has emphasized that there is still potential for improvement and that more optimization is required to continue telehealth utilization. To address this, WHO has published a new resource to assist policy-makers, decision-makers, and implementers in organizing and supervising telehealth implementations in order to ensure the sustainable use of telemedicine beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and among numerous complicated global health issues, from conflict and disease epidemics to climate change. “For telemedicine to have the most impact when and where it is needed, the enabling environment is critical. Investments in national policies, governance, and standards are important to have in place,” said Prof Alain Labrique, Director, Department of Digital Health and Innovation. “This Guide is not a stand-alone solution, but rather a complementary tool that works in tandem with user-centered solutions that are accessible by all, towards delivering high-quality remote care that is accountable and suitable to the context in which patients live.” 

This new resource, which seeks to complement the WHO Digital Investment Implementation Guide, which offers a structured procedure for designing and executing digital health interventions, aims to be a major reference for WHO Member States. It describes specific actions that nations may take to develop, carry out, sustain, and budget a telehealth program in order to produce equal health outcomes. Structurally, the guide’s suggested strategies are divided into 3 phases: situational assessment, implementation planning and monitoring, evaluation, and continuous improvement. Suggestions include determining evaluation goals, investing in health equity initiatives, and conducting a landscape evaluation.

According to the press release, telehealth has particularly contributed to removing obstacles to accessing sexual and reproductive health treatments in recent years. As a result, the guide was developed with assistance from the WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research. “Telemedicine is an important tool that expands access to critically needed sexual and reproductive health services – but we need to be mindful of the inherent inequities where access to the technology is limited or where there is the potential for harm,” said Dr. Pascale Allotey, Director of WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and HRP. “This Guide aims to support countries to deliver telemedicine services, while highlighting approaches to optimize and improve health for all.”