Sean Broomhead

Chief Technology Officer

  • WHO launches digital health guideline, Wednesday 17 April

    Figuring out how to use digital health for health systems strengthening is an important task. Now World Health Organization (WHO) has a guideline document to help, launching 14:00 CEST, Wednesday 17 April 2019. Join the live stream here to be part of the launch and gain access to the guideline.

    The title is WHO Guideline Recommendations on Digital Health Interventions for Health Systems Strengthening. This is the first WHO guideline on Digital Health Interventions. It provides evidence-based recommendations for ten ways that countries can use digital health to improve health services.

    eHNA will have more news on what the guideline contains and how we can use it productively for our African initiatives, after the launch.

  • IoT “in the wild” may help us manage stress better

    In his TEDx talk, Pablo Peredes makes a case for using the Internet of Things (IoT) to help humans manage stress. He points out that to be stress free, humans need more outdoor activity than our modern lives allow, and suggests that our “new” natural environment of homes, offices and cars can be more intuitive and responsive to support what we need. In his talk, he uses a book to explain our current stress-increasing predicament.

    Why Zebras don’t get ulcers is a book by biologist Robert M. Sapolsky. Sapolsky explains that for animals such as zebras, stress is typically episodic, such as when avoiding being eaten by a lion, and this stress is well managed by abundant opportunities for the free Zebra to engage in stress-relieving activities rambling around the savanna. In contrast, modern human stress is often chronic, such as worrying about losing a good job or how to survive a stressful one, and our natural environment is no longer the ubiquitous outdoors, but confined to homes, offices and cars, which offer too few opportunities for natural stress relief.

    Since we are unlikely to abandon our homes, offices and cars, Peredes suggests that IoT can help repurpose common household objects to make these devices able to help us manage our health better, transforming our homes, cars and workplaces into environments that identify and manage our stress. He suggests starting existing devices, avoiding the costs of adding new sensors. By collecting and analysing data from things we touch, such as a PC mouse, or a steering wheel in a car, Peredes says we can identify stress and do something about it.

    Peredes describes two reasons for people not managing stress: lack of willpower and lack of time. He suggests that we use the time available during our commute from home to office to diagnose stress levels and improve our stress management, such as making car seats talk us through breathing exercises, office chairs remind us to stand when we’ve been sitting too long, and adding imperceptible screen colour changes to adjust our breathing and heartrates.

    Peredes believes that the everyday devices around us should help us to manage stress. He calls it “stress management IOT in the wild” and invites us to share new design ideas via email.

    Many of our African homes are still connected to the natural environment, providing ample opportunities to blow off steam. Nevertheless, in Africa people are urbanising rapidly too, and it is reassuring to know that people like Peredes are thinking about how to make our modern environments more supportive. I look forward to writing more eHNA pieces about his IoT adventuring in the wild. 

  • A Whole-of-Government approach to investing in digital technologies to achieve the SDGs

    What do school children, farm animals and patients have in common? Well, rather a lot, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and some of its partners. Especially when it comes to investing in Information Communication Technology (ICT) to advance progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    The SDG Digital Investment Framework calls for countries to take a whole-of-government approach to investing in digital technology. The paper shows how to “identify which technologies matter most to achieve the SDGs.” The approach was developed by teams from ITU and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL).

    Its theory of change is shown in the figure below, extracted from the ITU document. It is about a small set of common ICT building blocks helping countries to deliver many high-impact use cases that support progress towards SDGs.


    Figure: SDG Digital Investment Framework theory of change.

    The paper provides an approach for countries to identify reusable ICT building blocks across sectors, particularly education, health and agriculture, and calls on governments and the private sector to work together to fund these shared foundation elements. The list of candidate ICT building blocks is extensive, including:

    1. Analytics and Business Intelligence Services
    2. Artificial Intelligence Services
    3. Client Case Management Services
    4. Collaboration Management Services
    5. Consent Management Services
    6. Content Management Services
    7. Data Collection Services
    8. Digital Registries
    9. eMarketplace Services
    10. Mobility Management Services
    11. Geographical Information Services
    12. Identification and Authentication Services
    13. Information Mediator Services
    14. Messaging Services
    15. Payment Services
    16. Reporting and Dashboard Services
    17. Scheduling Services
    18. Security Services
    19. Shared Data Repositories
    20. Terminology Services
    21. Workflow and Algorithm Services.

    It’s a bold approach that resonates with other initiatives underway in African countries, and across African regions. eHNA looks forward to reporting on further developments.


    Image from the SDG Digital Investment Framework report.

  • An ITU/WHO “how to” guide for building interoperable digital health infrastructure

    As we strengthen African national eHealth strategies, interoperability is gathering momentum too. It's a critical component of our national eHealth programmes. We are looking for a common, comprehensive framework, incorporating all data sources and information flows, both electronic and paper-based, providing a clear development and consolidation path for all components, along a digital development maturity model.

    Fortunately, there’s a handbook about how to do it: Digital Health Platform: Building a Digital Information Infrastructure (Infostructure) for Health, published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

    The figure below provides a high level overview of the Digital Health Platform (DHP) concept, its components, and how users interact with it.