Health and Healthcare Systems

How health data collaboration can help unlock inclusive healthcare

Trust is fundamental to effective health data ecosystems.

Trust is fundamental to effective health data ecosystems. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Laura Heinrich
Project Fellow, Digital Healthcare Transformation, World Economic Forum, Project Consultant, Capgemini
Antonio Spina
Lead, Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum LLC
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This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • Digital health is a key topic at the World Health Organization's World Health Assembly, the theme of which is 'all for health, health for all'.
  • Research by the World Economic Forum has highlighted the importance of digital health to support a transformation of global health systems.
  • To support this transformation, the Forum in collaboration with Capgemini, will launch the Digital Healthcare Transformation Community in June with a focus on health data collaboration.

All 194 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) are convening for the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) this week, with the theme of this year’s event a noble one: “All for health, health for all.”

A series of five strategic roundtables to be held at WHA also illustrates some of the key priorities top of mind for health ministries this year: investment in the WHO; financing of universal health coverage; artificial intelligence (AI) for health; antimicrobial resistance; and climate change and health.

A unique factor at this WHA in particular is digital health, as the WHO has recently launched its Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH), signalling a major increase in the effort it will place on digital health transformation.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

While there is great reason to be optimistic about the incredible ongoing improvements in global health – for example, the near eradication of polio – there is still much work to be done. The WHO has estimated that a staggering 4.5 billion people still are not fully covered by essential health services.

Digital health key to transforming global health

Research by the World Economic Forum has illustrated the importance of digital health to support a transformation of global health systems to help address these key global challenges.

In January 2024, the Forum launched the Digital Healthcare Transformation (DHT) Initiative, which provides a global platform for leveraging public-private partnership to improve health outcomes, access and efficiency.

The DHT Initiative aligns closely with the key objectives of the WHO, aimed at scaling and enhancing health outcomes through the responsible application of digital health technologies, health data and AI.

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This initiative is not merely a commitment to enhancing health systems and patient care through effective data usage and sharing; it's a strategic move toward making health coverage universal and more equitable.

One of the most fundamental enablers underlying digital healthcare transformation is health data; it has immense potential to improve human health, and yet the vast majority of it still goes unused.

To address this, the World Economic Forum – in collaboration with Capgemini – is exploring how health data collaboration can amplify and accelerate the benefits of digital transformation in health.

World Economic Forum DHT Initiative strategic framework, highlighting the ‘health data conundrum’ – a delicate balance between enabling and encouraging usage of sensitive data while maintaining privacy, security, quality and other key conditions.
World Economic Forum DHT Initiative strategic framework, highlighting the ‘health data conundrum’ – a delicate balance between enabling and encouraging usage of sensitive data while maintaining privacy, security, quality and other key conditions. Image: World Economic Forum

Earlier this year, the DHT Initiative was thrust into the spotlight during a strategy session held at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, where 40 global leaders in healthcare and technology converged to discuss how greater health data collaboration could help to improve population health.

While Davos provided a significant backdrop for these discussions, the ongoing conversations have yielded insights which are highlight relevant for the World Health Assembly.

Key enablers for health data collaboration unveiled

To drive toward key goals like universal health coverage, it is crucial to address the challenges and opportunities that were highlighted during the Davos 2024 strategy session, that underpin the societal impacts of digital healthcare transformation, especially concerning health data.

From engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, several key enablers have been highlighted:

  • Data sharing and trust: Trust is fundamental to effective health data ecosystems. Discussions highlighted the varied perspectives on data ownership or data rights, and the reluctance of some entities to share information, underscoring the need for a trust-enhancing culture. Strategies such as transparent data use policies, robust third-party verification systems, and demonstrating the tangible benefits of data sharing are essential. Lessons from sectors like finance and telecommunications provide valuable insights into successfully overcoming these challenges.
  • Interoperability and standardization: The lack of interoperability among health data systems presents a significant barrier to effective data sharing and utilization. Stakeholders emphasized the need for global standards and a unified approach, inspired by frameworks like the Helsinki declaration for clinical trials, to enable seamless and meaningful data exchange internationally.
  • Incentives for data sharing: Aligning incentives across the health data ecosystem is vital for fostering collaboration. Discussions focused on creating frameworks that incentivize data sharing, encouraging participation from academia, industry, patients and healthcare providers through innovative methods like profit-sharing and public-private partnerships.
  • Leveraging existing models and frameworks: Models and platforms such as Gaia-X, the European Health Data Space (EHDS), Health Outcomes Observatory (H2O) and many others offer blueprints for health data sharing, emphasizing community-driven development, innovation, and shared benefits. Adopting these principles can help create an environment where data security and innovation coexist to benefit all stakeholders.
  • Future directions and governance: Establishing a robust governance framework is crucial for the sustainable and ethical use of health data. The envisioned approach includes developing codes of conduct, operational governance models and third-party verification mechanisms. A neutral platform, potentially catalysed by the World Economic Forum, could centralize these efforts, ensuring coherence and advancing the global health data agenda.

Launching a healthcare data community

Building on the outcomes from Davos 2024 and anticipating the discussions at the World Health Assembly, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Capgemini, is set to launch the Digital Healthcare Transformation Community in June with a focus on health data collaboration.

This initiative represents a significant step toward eliminating the barriers to successful health data sharing and utilization, bringing together a global consortium of thought leaders to exchange strategic insights on key health data topics.

In the spirit of proactive collaboration, the DHT Community will collect and share exemplary use cases of health data sharing and usage from across the globe.

By examining a variety of regional practices and sector-specific breakthroughs, we aim to address existing challenges and forge a path to a future where healthcare is more efficient, effective, and equitable.

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