WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 77-82

Transforming health care through Bhutan’s digital health strategy: progress to date

1 Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu, Bhutan
2 Asian Development Bank, South Asia Health Sector Division, Manila, the Philippines
3 Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India, Bengaluru, India
4 World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence Address:
Sonalini Khetrapal
Asian Development Bank, South Asia Health Sector Division, Manila
the Philippines
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.264850

PMID: 31441441

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Bhutan, a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas with some of the most rugged and mountainous terrain in the world, is actively engaged in digital health strategy reforms aimed at improving the efficiency of the health information system. Aligned with Bhutan’s e-Government master plan, the National eHealth strategy and action plan aims to improve health by empowering health-care providers and citizens through technology and by enabling data exchange for service delivery. The strategy has four primary areas of focus: (i) ensuring digital health governance arrangements; (ii) concentrating on strong foundations in terms of infrastructure and standards; (iii) prioritizing improvements in the current health system in a phased, selective manner; and (iv) building the digital skills and knowledge of health workers. With support from the Asian Development Bank and the World Health Organization, phase 1 of the strategy has been completed and the blueprint for the digital health information system is in development. Phase 2 of the strategy will be implemented during 2020–2023 and will include work on (i) identity management for the health workforce; (ii) the implementation of a master patient index and a secure longitudinal patient information system; and (iii) enabling all health facilities to access the systems. Bhutan’s eHealth strategy has the potential to fundamentally transform the delivery of health services, strengthen primary health care and enable the development of a “One Health” public health surveillance system.

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