Special Track 2

Special Track 2

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Title: Governance of the digital transformation of health systems

Track Chairs:

Tugce Schmitt, Hertie School (corresponding author)

Mujaheed Shaikh, Hertie School

Author keywords:


Digital transformation

Health systems


Taking the digitalization trend during the Covid-19 pandemic into account, it is almost certain that this progress will reshape the countries’ public services in the near future, especially in healthcare. Health services are becoming more digital, preventive, interconnected and patient-centred. In order to prevent health threats governments will need to pay special attention to data-driven policies, for example by using Big Data. Legal, social, ethical or political factors in the national context have substantial effects when taking policy decisions for making use of the available data in different ‘silos’. On the other hand, patients and citizens produce each and every day health-related data by using mobile applications, wearables or having (digital) medical visits. Despite the challenges, the global trend indicates that increasingly more national public health systems, health insurances or sickness funds capitalize on digitalization by collecting and incorporating patients’ and citizens’ data into the intelligence they need for making decisions.

Health-related data are produced and used in various ways and levels. On the macro-level, collection of data about the health status of patients and citizens lays the groundwork for evidence-informed decision-making and makes policymakers more accountable for the interventions they design. Similarly, being able to interpret Big Data becomes increasingly important for the governments especially in the field of infectious diseases. Furthermore, in health service delivery using the available, yet usually dispersed set of data on individuals in a more meaningful way provides relevant and more actionable insights. For instance, some health insurance funds in Germany started to shift their focus from curing illness toward health promotion by rewarding physical activity with the utilization of wearables such as smart watches or fitness wristbands. In the context of integrated care, Finland introduced a nation-wide Patient Data Repository in which the patients can view and share with the health professionals information on their medical records, diagnoses, risk factors, laboratory test results, x-ray examinations and prescriptions. Also, France, Sweden, and United Kingdom have an established stage of telemedicine adoption. To complete the puzzle concerning the vast differences in innovation deployments between the countries, more knowledge should be acquired on the critical factors concerning the health governance, e-governance and national context in general.

To this end, we want to discuss in this Special Track the following themes. We know that some countries have more data-driven policies and are more developed in digital transformation comparing to others. What are the enablers and barriers of such improvements? Understanding the underlying mechanisms in national settings towards digitalization can unveil the reason why the digital transformation in certain environments happens. How can we best address the “contextual” challenges in the digital transformation of health systems and data-driven policies? What are the country experiences? Apart from the political, social, ethical and legal factors, what are the technical requirements for a data-driven, innovative health systems? How to tackle with the interoperability of the data between the sectors and different silos? What are the enabling or hindering governance factors for digital transformation that reflect countries’ readiness for such innovations?

Thematic topics in this Special Track are going to cover the digital solutions that aim to bring innovation to health systems, including, but not limited to, the implementation of electronic patient records, personal health records, telehealth, health information exchange, health information systems for surveillance and the meaningful use of Big Data as well as Artificial Intelligence in health. In doing so, we would like to explore the underlying governance factors in the countries that have enabled to put data-driven policies and innovative solutions into practice. From a policymaking point of view, we are very much interested in finding answers to close the ‘know-do’ gap in innovation deployment and would like to discuss with the colleagues the facilitators and barriers through the lens of in political, economic, social and technological circumstances. With this in mind, country case studies, theoretical explanations, frameworks, surveys or interviews for instance with the policymakers that can shed light on the meaningful use of health-related data in decision-making are especially welcome in this Special Track. Innovation deployment seems to necessitate the right set-up in governments and a positive attitude of patients or citizens towards using these services. Thus, scholars working in this area can address this topic from push/pull sides giving insights into factors from supply (from government) or demand (from patients or citizens) parts in this Special Track.

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