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Classification of Digital Health Interventions

TheClassification of digital health interventions v1.0 from the World Health Organization (WHO) is available here:

It is called a shared language to describe the uses of digital technology for health. It categorizes the different ways in which digital and mobile technologies are being used to support health system needs. The Classification framework, is meant mainly for public health personnel, and aims to promote an accessible and bridging language for health program planners to articulate functionalities of digital health implementations. The Classification scheme or “Taxonomy” is anchored on the unit of a “digital health intervention” that represents a discrete functionality of the digital technology for achieving health sector objectives.

 

The digital health interventions are organized into the following overarching groupings based on the targeted primary user:

  • Interventions for clients: Clients are members of the public who are potential or current users of health services, including health promotion activities. Caregivers of clients receiving health services are also included in this group.
  • Interventions for healthcare providers: Healthcare providers are members of the health workforce who deliver health services.
  • Interventions for health system or resource managers: Health system and resource managers are involved in the administration and oversight of public health systems. Interventions within this category reflect managerial functions related to supply chain management, health financing, human resource management.
  • Interventions for data services: This consists of crosscutting functionality to support a wide range of activities related to data collection, management, use, and exchange.

 

The diverse communities working in digital health—including government stakeholders, technologists, clinicians, implementers, network operators, researchers, donors— have lacked a mutually understandable language with which to assess and articulate functionality. A shared and standardized vocabulary was recognized as necessary to identify gaps and duplication, evaluate effectiveness, and facilitate alignment across different digital health implementations.

Four primary use cases prompted the development of this classification scheme:

  • synthesizing evidence and research;
  • conducting national inventories and landscape analyses;
  • developing guidance resources to inform planning;
  • articulating required digital functionality based on identified health system challenges and needs.

Although frameworks such as the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT), Health Level Seven (HL7, and International Standards Organization (ISO) exist, these frameworks provide highly technical terms for use by computer scientists and software developers in health. This new classification scheme offers a simplified language to help support a dialogue between public healthoffers a simplified language to help support a dialogue between public health practitioners and technology-oriented audiences.

This classification of Digital Health Interventions (DHIs) should be used in tandem with the of list Health System Challenges (HSC) to articulate how technology is addressing identified health needs, such as lack of service utilisation. The HSC framework provides an overview of needs and challenges faced in health systems, in order to assist program planners to express what they expect to achieve through implementation of a digital health intervention. To exemplify, one may implement a digital health intervention, like “targeted communication to clients”, in order to address a health system challenge, like “lack of service utilisation,” to achieve an overarching eHealth outcome of “improving clients’ access to knowledge resources and support for better management of their health”.

The classification of DHIs also highlights functionalities that fit within various System Categories, such as Logistics Management Information Systems (LMIS) or Electronic Medical Records (EMR). System Categories represent the types of ICT applications and information systems designed to deliver one or more digital health interventions. A digital health intervention such as “notify stock levels of health commodities” would fit into the System Category of LMIS. Linking digital health interventions to system categories is critical as these serve as the starting point for interoperability considerations.

This reference Classification will evolve as new digital functionalities emerge. The WHO Secretariat will periodically update and version this Classification based on technical consultations and public feedback.

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