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Health in the 21st Century

Putting Data to Work for Stronger Health Systems

image of Health in the 21st Century

This report explores how data and digital technology can help achieve policy objectives and drive positive transformation in the health sector while managing new risks such as privacy, equity and implementation costs. It examines the following topics: improving service delivery models; empowering people to take an active role in their health and their care; improving public health; managing biomedical technologies; enabling better collaboration across borders; and improving health system governance and stewardship. It also examines how health workforces should be equipped to make the most of digital technology. The report contains findings from surveys of OECD countries and shares a range of examples that illustrate the potential benefits as well as challenges of the digital transformation in the health sector. Findings and recommendations are relevant for policymakers, health care providers, payers, industry as well as patients, citizens and civil society.

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Intelligent system governance, stewardship and resource allocation

Health systems could harness information and communications (ICT) technology and data in several ways to improve governance and guide resource allocation. Despite the availability of technologies, institutional and organisational artefacts of the pre-digital era are a barrier to progress. While digitalisation makes long-standing fragmentation more apparent and can catalyse reforms, it can also lead to further fragmentation if ICT systems are not interoperable. Policy also needs to constrain the incentives for private owners of data to turn them into a scarce commodity and prevent other entities with legitimate interests from accessing and analysing them. Countries can make progress by defining comprehensive and inter-sectoral strategies, by instituting data governance frameworks and infrastructure to make data readily available for legitimate purposes while protecting privacy, and by investing heavily in capacity to generate knowledge from data and to deploy this knowledge to improve health system performance.

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