Newsroom & Blog

Mar 13, 2024   |   Blog Post

Stronger Together: Making the Case for a Global Telehealth Community of Practice

Photo credit: Jodi-Ann Burey

By Edwin Mulwa

Director and Team Lead, Digital Solutions GTT, VillageReach

With contributions from Tapiwa Mukwashi, Director Global Technical Team, VillageReach; Jessica Mayenda, Senior Manager HCBP, VillageReach and Sophie Delaigue, Digital Health Specialist, Geneva Digital Health Hub

In a world characterized by rapid technological advancements and increased demand for health care access, the need for global collaboration and knowledge-sharing are more important than ever. Telehealth, the use of information and communication technology by health care professionals to deliver services remotely, has emerged as a powerful tool for overcoming access barriers. To unlock its full potential, a unified global approach is essential. This is where a Global Telehealth Community of Practice (GTCoP) comes in.

A 2022 review by Karamagi et al. on digital health interventions in Africa underscored challenges despite the presence of numerous digital health solutions. They identified a lack of coordination, integration, scalability and equitable investment. To address this “e-chaos,” the authors propose building leadership capacity, adopting standards and advocating for increased investment in multi-purpose solutions.

The Case for a GTCoP
A GTCoP recognizes the transformative power of telehealth and the potential of collective action. It will unite diverse stakeholders, including governments, health care providers, policymakers, researchers, academics, technology experts and community advocacy groups. The GTCoP aims to connect national telehealth communities, fostering collaboration and shared experiences. This will facilitate knowledge exchange, continuous learning, policy development and collaboration to bridge technical and political divides. Ultimately, the goal is to create country-level telehealth ecosystems equipped to deliver better health outcomes.

This initiative aligns with Pillar 4 of the Global Initiative on Digital Health (#GIDH), launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in February 2024. The GIDH aims to amplify resources and drive country-led digital health transformation. To achieve this, the WHO, Geneva Digital Health Hub (GDHub) and VillageReach are working together to establish the GTCoP.

Structure and Set Up of the GTCoP
GTCoP is designed as a cohesive ecosystem. A Steering Committee provides strategic direction, while a core team sets the strategy, manages the online platform and coordinates peer support. This peer support network will focus on policy development, technical standards and implementation research. It will be built through collaboration with existing networks and partners.

Structure and Setup of the GTCoP

Benefits for Participating Countries
Creating country-level chapters of GTCoP offers governments a forum to unite in-country stakeholders to drive the setup, adoption and maintenance of telehealth services. These chapters will link to the GTCoP, with the government acting as the main representative. Participating countries gain access to global experts and resources to support telehealth development and implementation. Additionally, professionals can build capacity to improve health care quality and efficiency. They will also have a platform to influence global telehealth policies and standards while collaborating on research to generate evidence-based insights.

Success Metrics
Within three years, the GTCoP aims to establish and sustain country groups for telehealth knowledge sharing, networking, and collaboration. It will also support identifying existing telehealth interventions, best practices and tools at country and global levels. The GTCoP will advocate for improved regulatory frameworks and leverage collective expertise to increase the impact of telehealth interventions. By harnessing telehealth innovations, the goal is to reduce health care access disparities and improve health outcomes globally.

Indicators of Success by 2025

The Road Ahead
The GTCoP offers a unique opportunity to unlock the transformative potential of telehealth through collaboration, innovation and shared learning. By uniting stakeholders worldwide, the GTCoP can accelerate progress towards achieving universal access to quality health care and advancing global health equity.

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