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Original article
Digital health in the Americas: advances and challenges in connected health
  1. David Novillo-Ortiz1,
  2. Elsy Maria Dumit1,
  3. Marcelo D’Agostino1,
  4. Francisco Becerra-Posada1,
  5. Edward Talbott Kelley2,
  6. Joan Torrent-Sellens3,
  7. Ana Jiménez-Zarco3,
  8. Francesc Saigí-Rubió4
  1. 1 Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health, Pan American Health Organization, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  2. 2 Department of Service Delivery and Safety, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 3 Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
  4. 4 Faculty of Health Sciences, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr. Francesc Saigí-Rubió, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 08018 Barcelona, Spain; fsaigi{at}


In 2005, all WHO Member States pledged to fight for universal health coverage (UHC). The availability of financial, human and technological resources seems to be necessary to develop efficient health policies and also to offer UHC. One of the main challenges facing the health sector comes from the need to innovate efficiently. The intense use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the health field evidences a notable improvement in results obtained by institutions, health professionals and patients, principally in developed countries. In the Americas, the relationship between economic development and health innovation is not particularly evident. Data from 19 of 35 countries surveyed in the 2015 Third Global Survey on eHealth for the region of the Americas were analysed. 52.6% of the countries of the Americas have a national policy or strategy for UHC. 57.9% of the countries in the sample indicate that they have a national eHealth policy or strategy, but only 26.3% have an entity that supervises the quality, safety and reliability regulations for mobile health applications. The survey data indicate that high-income and low-income to middle-income countries show higher percentages in relation to the existence of entities that promote innovation. These countries also exceed 60%—compared with 40% and 50% in lower-income countries—in all cases regarding the use of eHealth practices, such as mobile health, remote patient monitoring or telehealth. 100% of low-income countries report offering ICT training to healthcare professionals, compared with 83% of wealthy countries and 81% of middle-income to high-income countries.

  • global health
  • mhealth
  • telemedicine
  • universal coverage

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  • Contributors DN-O and FS-R conceptualised the study and designed the paper. DN-O, MD’A, ETK, FB-P and EMD contributed to the methodology to obtain the data from countries and checked the accuracy of extracted data. FS-R, JT-S, AJ-Z and DN-O wrote the first draft of the review paper. EMD, MD’A, FB-P and ETK contributed to the final draft of this manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding None.

  • Disclaimer DN-O, EMD, MD’A and FB-P are staff members of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and are themselves alone responsible for the views expressed in the paper, which do not necessarily represent the views, decisions or policies of the PAHO/WHO.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.