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New virtual health and care report from WHO and Novartis calls for ‘critical action’

The report analysis shows how COVID-19 has changed virtual health and care policies in 23 countries


A new report calls for ‘critical action’ from healthcare decision-makers to ensure the COVID-19-driven surge in virtual health and care drives health access and equity.

The report, The Future of Health and Care – driving access and equity through inclusive policies, from the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development Working Group on Virtual Health and Care, co-chaired by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Novartis Foundation (Novartis), details how the past two years have changed access to health and care in 23 countries.

The insights from the report form the foundation for a comprehensive roadmap that provides practical actions to help countries ensure inclusive access to virtual services for entire populations.

Commenting on the surge, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who co-chaired the Working Group on Virtual Health and Care, which developed the report, said: “In the past two years, I have seen transformations in health and care delivery that I thought would take at least a decade.

“We have seen that decision makers are now embracing hybrid health systems that combine virtual and in-person services. This is an incredible advance in healthcare, one that was long overdue and is now happening at an accelerated pace due to the pandemic. But countries need to introduce careful policies to ensure their entire populations can benefit from these changes.”

The report found that the use of both virtual health solutions and care solutions surged during the pandemic. In the US, the percentage of telehealth claims (compared to all health claims) were 25 times higher in January 2022 compared to 2019, with over three-quarters of patients wanting to continue to use virtual services and over 80% of providers intending to continue to offer virtual health services as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.
However, many countries are yet to develop coherent frameworks to ensure virtual health services work effectively alongside in-person care.

The report also acknowledges that for some groups, internet access can be an issue. “As some population groups may have less access to mobile phones and internet or lower levels of digital literacy, countries have to ensure inclusive and equitable policy making to further integrate virtual services into their overall health systems. People who need help to access or navigate virtual health services, for example, require targeted attention,” said Dr Ann Aerts of the Novartis Foundation and Working Group co-chair.

Article by
Emily Kimber

17th June 2022

From: Research, Healthcare



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