The Verdict Is In: Digital Health Interventions Succeeded in the Age of COVID-19

Ansley Bowen • June 22, 2022

Digital health interventions (DHIs) are health services delivered electronically through formal or informal care. DHIs can be used for a wide range of services such as facilitated health promotion communication, electronic medical records used by providers, or mobile health apps used by consumers. Ultimately, DHIs are used to achieve certain health objectives. During the COVID-19 outbreak, digital health interventions began to gain popularity and attention, as it offered solutions to pressing healthcare issues caused by the pandemic. In a HITLAB (Health Innovation Technologies Lab) Virtual Town Hall presented by Information Mediary Corp. (IMC), a group of expert panelists, discussed the importance of digital health interventions for patients and physicians in the age of COVID-19.  

Panelist Donald Jones, JD, MBA, Chief Digital Officer, Scripps Research Translational Institute, explained that COVID-19 has digitalized health in many ways.  Telemedicine and remote monitoring have a lot more to offer now that healthcare is in a virtual world. Although telemedicine has enormous potential, COVID-19 has stretched its capability to provide quality care. Panelist Dr. Marcelo Venegas, Physician, HIV & Hepatitis Specialist, & Co-Founder of KnowNOW, also contributed by expressing that telehealth has been extremely easy to use and helpful during the height of the pandemic. Unfortunately, technological errors such as system overloading do not allow these platforms to maintain capacity or accuracy of visits. Adjustments should be made to telehealth-based interventions, to create a more reliable long-term solution. Additionally, Jones mentioned that artificial intelligence and machine learning have given health professionals the ability to predict physical signs of decompensation before they occur. This intervention alone increases patient safety and outcomes regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Panelist Dr. Rosalind Parkes-Ratanshi, Director of the Ugandan Academy of Health Innovation and Impact, encouraged the usage of mobile phones to increase surveillance- “People are still reliant on mobile phones and not so much on data driven internet solutions.” She elaborated on this further when discussing how in more rural areas, digital solutions relying on mobile phone technology are the best way to go. In fact, there is consideration that it could even be possible to help control the spread digitally, using preventative and surveillance methods, such as reaching out via phone to travelers to find out if they are exhibiting symptoms.  

In the case of COVID-19, Jones set out how mobile phones could alert users when they have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. This tagging and tracking method remains useful, although it may pose some privacy risks down the road. However, a digital health intervention, such as a COVID-19 tracking app, lets users voluntarily put in when and where they may have been exposed or if they tested positive.  For Dr. Parkes-Ratanshi, there is great emphasis and importance on the need for big tech companies to support public health efforts.  

All-in-all, digital health interventions have really stepped up to the plate during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Although DHIs are not the only solution, they offer innovative alternatives to our ever-growing health care system. It is important that digital health technology tools increase efficiency without losing efficacy, especially during COVID-19. 

Ansley Bowen

Ansley Bowen

Ansley Bowen is a graduate student at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Ansley is working under HITLAB’s Developing Emerging Leaders in Public Health Initiative with a focus on integrating innovation into healthcare and public health.