Revolutions are often associated with rapid upheaval – a fundamental change in political, societal, technological, economic and cultural dimensions. The so-called revolution in digital health, however, has been slow moving for many years, more like an undercurrent. But, lately it has become a tide, with all stakeholders fully invested and ready to catch the wave.

Mobile apps and wearable devices empower individuals to manage their health and wellness. Big data analytics harness individual information for public health, safety and research, while remote monitoring devices, telemedicine, electronic health records and interoperability enable the right care, anywhere. All of this technology and data ultimately result in low-cost wellness and high-value healthcare.

At its heart, the digital health revolution is centred on the health and wellness of a person, but its implications extend to the health and wellness of world societies and economies. As revolutions go, we’re not taking full advantage of it. We need to mobilize the resources we have and measure the progress made to realize the full promise of this digital health revolution.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Digital Health is calling for the delivery of a Digital Health Knowledge Exchange toolkit (a “knowledge commons”) to support, develop and promote increased health by fully leveraging the capabilities of digital technologies.

Drawing on the collective expertise of an extended network of more than 1,000 policy leaders and decision-makers in healthcare, the Digital Health Knowledge Exchange will provide access to information and communication resources for health that are useful for leaders in other related sectors. It will also be a place to host important updates and discussions on turning points in digital health. And, it will encourage experienced world leaders in the field to share their recommended actions and best practices in digital health.

The growth and role of digital health must be measured and its impact on economies recognized. To do this, the Global Agenda Council on Digital Health calls for the creation of a Digital Health Index, a composite metric about the use of digital methods in healthcare and wellness. The Index will focus on economic, social, political and scientific issues as well as future trends in digital health. It will not only measure the contributions of digital health technologies to health and wellness across all sectors, but will also be important and meaningful to the individual.

Revolutions change societies and the world when their potential becomes a reality. Through the mobilization of resources and better measurement, we can fully realize the promise of the digital health revolution.

Author: Jamie Ferguson is Vice-President of Health IT and a Fellow at the Institute for Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente. He is also Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Digital Health. 

Image: A woman undergoes an eye examination using a smartphone at a temporary clinic by International Centre for Eye Health at Olenguruone in the Mau Summit 350km (217 miles) west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. REUTERS/Noor Khamis