CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Methods Inf Med 2020; 59(06): 183-192
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1726414
For-Discussion Article

Evidence-Based Health Informatics as the Foundation for the COVID-19 Response: A Joint Call for Action

Luis Fernandez-Luque
1  Adhera Health Inc., Palo Alto, California, United States
Andre W. Kushniruk
2  School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
Andrew Georgiou
3  Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
Arindam Basu
4  School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Carolyn Petersen
5  Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, United States
Charlene Ronquillo
6  Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Ryerson, Toronto, Canada
Chris Paton
7  Department of Information Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
8  Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Christian Nøhr
9  Centre for Health Informatics and Technology, Maersk McKinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Craig E. Kuziemsky
10  Office of Research Services, MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Dari Alhuwail
11  Department of Information Science, Kuwait University, Kuwait
12  Health Informatics Unit, Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kuwait
Diane Skiba
13  University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado, United States
Elaine Huesing
Elia Gabarron
15  Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway
Elizabeth M. Borycki
16  School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
Farah Magrabi
3  Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
Kerstin Denecke
17  Institute for Medical Informatics, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Bern, Switzerland
Linda W. P. Peute
18  Medical Informatics, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Max Topaz
19  Columbia University Medical Center, Data Science Institute, Columbia University, Columbia, United States
Najeeb Al-Shorbaji
20  Amman, Jordan
Paulette Lacroix
21  University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
Romaric Marcilly
22  Univ. Lille, Inserm, CHU Lille, ULR 2694 - METRICS: Évaluation des technologies de santé et des pratiques médicales, F-59000 Lille, France
Ronald Cornet
18  Medical Informatics, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Shashi B. Gogia
23  Society for Administration of Telemedicine and Healthcare Informatics, New Delhi, India
Shinji Kobayashi
24  National Institute of Public Health, Japan
Sriram Iyengar
25  The University of Arizona, Arizona, United States
Thomas M. Deserno
26  Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics of TU Braunschweig and Hannover Medical School, Braunschweig, Germany
Tobias Mettler
27  Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Vivian Vimarlund
28  Department of Computer and Information Science (IDA), School of Engineering and Technology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
Xinxin Zhu
29  Center for Biomedical Data Science, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
› Author Affiliations


Background As a major public health crisis, the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrates the urgent need for safe, effective, and evidence-based implementations of digital health. The urgency stems from the frequent tendency to focus attention on seemingly high promising digital health interventions despite being poorly validated in times of crisis.

Aim In this paper, we describe a joint call for action to use and leverage evidence-based health informatics as the foundation for the COVID-19 response and public health interventions. Tangible examples are provided for how the working groups and special interest groups of the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) are helping to build an evidence-based response to this crisis.

Methods Leaders of working and special interest groups of the IMIA, a total of 26 groups, were contacted via e-mail to provide a summary of the scientific-based efforts taken to combat COVID-19 pandemic and participate in the discussion toward the creation of this manuscript. A total of 13 groups participated in this manuscript.

Results Various efforts were exerted by members of IMIA including (1) developing evidence-based guidelines for the design and deployment of digital health solutions during COVID-19; (2) surveying clinical informaticians internationally about key digital solutions deployed to combat COVID-19 and the challenges faced when implementing and using them; and (3) offering necessary resources for clinicians about the use of digital tools in clinical practice, education, and research during COVID-19.

Discussion Rigor and evidence need to be taken into consideration when designing, implementing, and using digital tools to combat COVID-19 to avoid delays and unforeseen negative consequences. It is paramount to employ a multidisciplinary approach for the development and implementation of digital health tools that have been rapidly deployed in response to the pandemic bearing in mind human factors, ethics, data privacy, and the diversity of context at the local, national, and international levels. The training and capacity building of front-line workers is crucial and must be linked to a clear strategy for evaluation of ongoing experiences.

Note: For complete IMIA affiliations, please refer to Appendix A.

Publication History

Received: 04 December 2020

Accepted: 19 January 2021

Publication Date:
11 May 2021 (online)

© 2021. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (

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