Wiring the community health worker: A winning strategy for NCD care

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Executive summary

Expanding access to care for those with non- communicable diseases is accelerated when technology works with – and for – people.

In an increasingly connected and digital world, technology continues to transform even the most human of interactions, including healthcare. Yet ascertaining how innovation will affect people – and whether that change will be positive for all or just

a few – has historically been challenging. Most recently, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated significant attention and enthusiasm, in part due to its ability to expedite transactional processes and automate mundane tasks. Whether digital transformation and AI will ultimately enhance or detract from health outcomes and social interactions remains to be seen, and the future role of human beings in delivering healthcare is likewise still uncertain. A recent publication from the World Economic Forum outlines several high-potential use cases of AI in healthcare, the barriers to realizing value and the principles for accelerating adoption. What is not in doubt is that the digital revolution in healthcare is well under way.

While new technologies are poised to disrupt people’s experience of healthcare, the speed and allocation of the resources for innovation remain unbalanced. The digital health market has received unprecedented levels of funding over the past decade, and many are now asking difficult questions about the use of these funds and whether investment has been prudent, effective or equitably distributed. Global investment in digital health

is disparate, and is skewed heavily towards the United States. Yet within the US there are additional disparities; for instance, in the funding of start-ups with female and/or ethnic minority founders.2,3 To truly improve the state of health around the world, addressing this reality and these imbalances is essential, as is reflection on both the potential and limits of technology to change health outcomes. In judging whether technological innovation will stimulate positive change in healthcare, it matters not only what and how change is implemented but also who is being supported to design and create the transformation.

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