CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Yearb Med Inform 2021; 30(01): 013-016
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1726480
WHO Paper

Digital Health during COVID-19: Informatics Dialogue with the World Health Organization

Sabine Koch*
1   Health Informatics Centre, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
William R. Hersh
2   Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA
Riccardo Bellazzi
3   Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, University of Pavia, Italy
4   IRCCS ICS Maugeri Pavia, Italy
Tze Yun Leong
5   Department of Computer Science, School of Computing, National University of Singapore and AI Singapore, Singapore
Moctar Yedaly
6   Information Society Division, African Union Commission, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Najeeb Al-Shorbaji
7   eHealth Development Association, Amman, Jordan
› Author Affiliations


Background: On December 16, 2020 representatives of the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), a Non-Governmental Organization in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), along with its International Academy for Health Sciences Informatics (IAHSI), held an open dialogue with WHO Director General (WHO DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus about the opportunities and challenges of digital health during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Objectives: The aim of this paper is to report the outcomes of the dialogue and discussions with more than 200 participants representing different civil society organizations (CSOs).

Methods: The dialogue was held in form of a webinar. After an initial address of the WHO DG, short presentations by the panelists, and live discussions between panelists, the WHO DG and WHO representatives took place. The audience was able to post questions in written. These written discussions were saved with participants’ consent and summarized in this paper.

Results: The main themes that were brought up by the audience for discussion were: (a) opportunities and challenges in general; (b) ethics and artificial intelligence; (c) digital divide; (d) education. Proposed actions included the development of a roadmap based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusions: Decision making by policy makers needs to be evidence-based and health informatics research should be used to support decisions surrounding digital health, and we further propose next steps in the collaboration between IMIA and WHO such as future engagement in the World Health Assembly.

* The authors represented IMIA/IAHSI in the dialogue session in different roles:

* SK – IMIA President and corresponding author

* WBH – IAHSI President

* RB – former IMIA Vice President and data analytics expert

* TYL – former IMIA Vice President and AI expert

* MY – representing the African Union Commission

* NAS – current IMIA Vice President, IAHSI Committee Chair, and panel moderator

Publication History

Article published online:
21 April 2021

© 2021. IMIA and Thieme. 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. (

Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany