Digital health


As a leader in delivering health data and applying economic analysis for health policy making, the OECD supports policy makers in harnessing data and digital technology for transforming health systems.

As countries aim to shift their health systems towards putting people at the centre, data and digital technologies present immense opportunities for making progress. However, they also challenge policy makers in many new ways. In the past thirty years, digital technology has transformed entire societies and the global economy. The extent of this transformation can be compared to previous industrial revolutions. But two decades into the 21st century, a similar transformation is yet to occur in health.

The key to achieving a digital transformation in health is no longer developing the necessary technology – smartphones, mobile apps and other software. The technology is already there. Countries need to regulate technology for it to serve policy objectives. But beyond regulation, they also need to overhaul the structures, policies and institutions that govern health systems, and invest significantly in human and institutional capacity. A genuine digital transformation is a political choice.

OECD work covers digital strategy, health data governance, health workforce policy, telemedicine/telehealth and artificial intelligence, among other topics.


FOCUS - Empowering the health workforce: Strategies to make the most of the digital revolution


Digital technologies offer unique opportunities to strengthen health systems. However, the digital infrastructure, interoperability standards, and data sharing only provide the tools, which on their own cannot transform the health systems, but need to be put to productive use by the health workers.

This report discusses how to engage and empower the health workforce to make the most of the digital revolution by:

  • building trust in the benefits of digital health technologies among health workers and patients;
  • ensuring that digital technologies truly meet the needs of health workers and their patients;
  • advancing expertise and skills needed within the health sector for effective co-design, deployment, and use of digital health technologies;
  • adapting payment systems and the organisation of work such that health workers can timely and effectively start using digital solutions and tools.

This report was prepared for the 2020 German Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with support from the German Federal Ministry of Health. It was released at the conference “Digital Health 2020 - EU on the Move", organised on 11 November by the German Federal Ministry of Health, within the 2020 German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The aim of the Conference is to stimulate the discussion on the steps necessary to advance the digital transformation of health systems.


The proportion of adults seeking health information online more than doubled between 2008 and 2017.

Percentage of adults who sought health-related information online, 2008 and 2017


Source: OECD (2020), "ICT Access and Usage by Households and Individuals", OECD Telecommunications and Internet Statistics (database accessed on 02 April 2020).

Yet, the health sector invests less in information and communications technology (ICT) than other sectors of the economy.

Investment in software, databases and ICT services by the health sector
Investment in software and databases as a % of non-residential GFCF; purchases of intermediate ICT services as a % of output


Note: Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) is a measure of spending on fixed assets. Countries covered: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Source: Calvino, F., et al. (2018), "A taxonomy of digital intensive sectors", OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers, No. 2018/14, OECD Publishing, Paris.


Read our latest Working Paper: Empowering the health workforce to make the most of the digital revolution, OECD Health Working Paper N° 129 (released July 19, 2021)

Laying the foundations for artificial intelligence in health


Laying the foundations for artificial intelligence in health

OECD Health Working Papers, No. 128, published in June 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to make health care more effective, efficient and equitable. AI applications are on the rise, from clinical decision-making and public health, to biomedical research and drug development, to health system administration and service redesign. The COVID-19 pandemic is serving as a catalyst, yet it is also a reality check, highlighting the limits of existing AI systems.
Policy makers should beware of the hype surrounding AI and identify and focus on real problems and opportunities that AI can help address. In setting the foundations for AI to help achieve health policy objectives, one key priority is to improve data quality, interoperability and access in a secure way through better data governance. Strong policy frameworks based on inclusive and extensive dialogue among all stakeholders are also key to ensure AI adds value to patients and to societies. AI that influences clinical and public health decisions should be introduced with care. Ultimately, high expectations must be managed, but real opportunities should be pursued.

National health data infrastructure and governance

Survey results: National health data infrastructure and governance

OECD Health Working Papers, No. 127, published in April 2021

This report presents findings from the 2019-20 OECD survey of health data development, use and governance. Health ministries and health data authorities in twenty-three countries responded to the survey. Survey results indicate variability across countries in health data use and governance and identify a small number of countries with most of the policies and practices that protect privacy and health data security and foster the development, use, accessibility and sharing of key national health datasets for research and statistical purposes that were measured. The findings from the survey provide input for further discussion on health data development in multiple areas of work, notably in the digital community.

  • Also check the Health data sharing intensity indicator:
    Personal health data are among the most sensitive in terms of an individual’s privacy. Such data are also essential to helping make health systems more efficient, improving patient outcomes and developing new treatments. Non-fragmented and robust health data governance systems play a key role in enabling safe access to data. This indicator looks at the extent to which national health datasets may be shared with domestic and international stakeholders. The indicator value is 100% when all national health datasets may be shared with all stakeholder groups.

Use of telemedicine in OECD countries

Bringing health care to the patient: An overview of the use of telemedicine in OECD countries 


OECD Health Working Papers, No. 116, published in January 2020 


Telemedicine is being used across OECD countries to deliver health care in a wide range of specialties, for numerous conditions and through varied means. A growing body of evidence suggests that care delivered via telemedicine can be both safe and effective, in some cases with better outcomes than conventional face-to-face care. Telemedicine services can also be cost-effective in different settings and contexts.
Despite its potential, telemedicine also introduces new risks and can amplify existing inequalities. Important barriers to wider use remain, with providers and patients facing regulatory uncertainty, patchy financing and reimbursement, and vague governance. Telemedicine services still represent a small fraction of all health care activity and spending. Due to inequalities in health and digital literacy, patients that most stand to benefit are also often those that are least able to access and make use of telemedicine.
This paper is relevant for policymakers, health care providers, payers and industry.


Health in the 21st Century

Health in the 21st Century: Putting Data to Work for Stronger Health Systems

OECD Health Policy Studies, published in November 2019

This report explores how data and digital technology can help achieve policy objectives and drive positive transformation in the health sector while managing new risks such as privacy, equity and implementation costs.
The report contains findings from surveys of OECD countries and shares a range of examples that illustrate the potential benefits as well as challenges of the digital transformation in the health sector.
The report is relevant for policymakers, health care providers, payers, industry as well as patients, citizens and civil society.


Blogs and articles


The OECD Going Digital Project
Led by the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP)

To bring about stronger and more inclusive growth from the digital transformation, it is essential to build a coherent and comprehensive policy approach. This is the essence of the OECD Going Digital project. Led and co-ordinated by the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP), the project draws on and connects the expertise of 17 OECD committees, including the Health Committee.

OECD.AI Policy Observatory: Focus on Health

This webpage provides the latest on artificial intelligence (AI) and health. In health care, AI systems help diagnose disease and prevent outbreaks, discover treatments, tailor interventions and power self-monitoring tools. They can facilitate personalised health care and precision medicine.
AI is transforming every aspect of our lives. It influences how we work and play. It promises to help solve global challenges like climate change and access to quality medical care. Yet AI also presents challenges for businesses and citizens alike.
The OECD Artificial Intelligence Policy Observatory, established as part of the Going Digital Project, aims to help countries and others shape policy and institutional frameworks for the development of trustworthy AI that benefits society as a whole, guided by the OECD AI Principles.

  • Trustworthy AI in Health: read the background paper for the G20 AI Dialogue, Digital Economy Task Force, Saudi Arabia, 1-2 April 2020

The OECD Global Blockchain Policy Centre

Led by the OECD Committee on Financial Markets (CMF) in cooperation with the Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP).

Blockchain and its underlying distributed ledger technology have the potential to fundamentally transform a wide range of industries and markets. The Global Blockchain Policy Centre is exploring the benefits and risks of blockchain for economies and societies, beginning to identify good policy and regulatory approaches, and investigating uses in specific policy areas.


For more information, please contact: 

‌ Small follow us Twitter icon‌ 
Follow us on Twitter @OECD_Social


Related Documents