November 8, 2021

Dr. Manish Kumar

Dr. Manish Kumar

A team led by Manish Kumar, PhD, MPH, an alum of and adjunct assistant professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, developed a new resource that brings much-needed clarity to the process of identifying and applying appropriate digital health tools to assess and improve digital health capability for public health systems. This Navigator for Digital Health Capability Models helps users choose from a series of tools designed to assess and improve digital health capabilities based on the current state and future goals of the digital health system.

Digital health refers to the use of digital technologies to improve the efficacy and efficiency of health systems to strengthen resilience to disease and boost health and wellness. It integrates data management, computer hardware and software, and public health practices in a way that supports the public health workforce in making evidence-informed decisions at the individual and system levels.

As countries work to incorporate digital technologies into their health systems, they need a standard way to measure their progress. Much work has gone into creating tools to assess various dimensions of digital health systems, and many of these are publicly available. However, choosing which tool or tools to use can be a challenge. This new navigator builds on the value of existing tools by providing guidance for using them effectively.

A maturity model assesses whether an organization’s processes are optimized to achieve its intended result and gives valuable insight on next steps to expand its capabilities. Assessment tools based on a maturity model allow systematic measurement of an organization’s human resources, business processes, technology and capabilities. After establishing baseline measurements for these factors, which indicate level of maturity, the tools then help the user set goals to achieve later stages of maturity and develop plans to do so. The navigator helps ensure that they do so in a way that will aid a country in achieving its public health targets.

“Tools based on a maturity model stand to add the most value to a health system when they align with a country or organization’s specific digital health goals,” said Kumar. “The Navigator for Digital Health Capability Models helps users identify and implement the tool that is most appropriate for their aims and context and understand results and next steps.”

The Navigator for Digital Health Capability Models involves three parts: an overview slide deck, a user’s guide and a Microsoft Excel-based decision-support workbook, which shows which tool, or combination of tools, will give the best results based on the desired areas of assessment. It shows the value of using the tools and helps the user pick the right one, based on their objectives and the current condition of their digital health system, including such factors as the enabling environment. It also helps show how to use the tools in combination with one another.

This tool will be useful to health system planners, implementors, evaluators and funders at the national and subnational levels. Because it incorporates a wide range of digital health and health information system assessments, it can be used at any stage of the planning or implementation process. It can also be used to help implement lessons from previous assessments based on maturity models to improve overall digital heath capabilities.

The Navigator was developed by the Carolina Population Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the Digital Square project of PATH, with funding and technical advisory support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). An advisory team composed of representatives from USAID, the World Health Organization, World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund, USAID-Country Health Information Systems and Data Use Project., and the Kati Collective provided input and suggestions. Members of the Digital Health and Interoperability Working Group’s Small Working Group on maturity models provided valuable input and feedback on the various iterations of the Navigator and contributed to the Navigator’s testing.

To learn more about the tool, register to attend the launch webinar. November 10, 2021, 9 a.m. EST

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