The Digital Health Conference in the Asia-Pacific


As the world enters the Post-2015 Development Era, the lessons from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reveal opportunities for more systematic, equitable, effective, and efficient approaches to health interventions supported by information and communications technology (ICT). Digital Health has now emerged as the all-encompassing term for such interventions and this conference aims to elaborate on specific joint actions Asia-Pacific countries can take together to elevate their capacity to harness ICT in achieving the health and health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The Asia eHealth Information Network (AeHIN) was created by the World Health Organization to facilitate peer-to-peer learning among national Health Information Systems (HIS) and eHealth focal points and advocates in the ministry of health, ministry of information and communications technology, academe, and non-government sectors. Since its inception in 2011, following the Asia-Pacific HIS Country Ownership and Leadership Forum, AeHIN has fostered relationship-building between its members with the goal of developing an environment for effective capacity development, collaboration, and cooperation towards regional interoperability.  AeHIN now comprises over 900 members from more than 25 countries in South and Southeast Asia and maintains affiliation with the Pacific Health Information Network (PHIN), Africa Network for Digital Health (ANDH), the Joint Learning Network (JLN) for Universal Health Coverage, and the regionalized community of practice focusing on Routine Health Information Systems (RHIS) — or the AeHIN RHIS sub-group.

In the first AeHIN General Meeting (GM) (Bangkok, August 2012), the participants launched the network and approved the AeHIN four-point strategy. The second GM (Manila, September 2013) had three sub-events: the IT4UHC Conference where consensus was reached about the important role of information technology in achieving universal health coverage (UHC), while planners from six countries concurrently underwent a national eHealth strategy writeshop. In the third sub-event, the AeHIN Business Meeting, the participants approved the strategic implementation plan 2012-2017.

The third GM hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) (Manila, December 2014) started with a workshop on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) followed by the Measuring and Achieving UHC with ICT Conference.   This conference elicited major statements from policymakers in support of the multi-sectoral engagement for galvanizing the importance of leadership and governance, enterprise architecture, standards, and capacity-building leading to consensus proclamation of ten key UHC with ICT recommendations—or iCTen!

The fourth AeHIN GM combined with the Conference on Measurement and Accountability for Health in Asia and the Pacific (#MA4HealthAP) galvanised a multi-pronged approach to better health care from personalized health data through eHealth and mHealth solutions at the service delivery level up to reliable Health Information Systems (HIS) from multiple data sources, leading to better M&E of health sector policies, strategies, and plans.  The innovation from individual to aggregate level data required concrete tools and scalable solutions that can interoperate and be used to begin measuring health system performance – specifically for universal health coverage. Emphasis was given to open source and open standards-based tools and technologies that can help countries begin or accelerate their use of ICT-enhanced solutions with governance, enterprise architecture, standards, and effective capacity-building programmes to support HIS and eHealth investments. All these were summarized into AeHIN’s Response to MA4Health’s  5-point call-to-action.

For this fifth AeHIN General Meeting and Digital Health Conference, the objectives are to consolidate strengths in capacity already established by AeHIN (eg, IT governance, enterprise architecture, interoperability labs) and direct them towards health SDG measurement and accountability readiness, regional interoperability, and country HIS and eHealth strengthening. The goal is to use the strength of the network to achieve these objectives and to maximize the peer-learning approach to capacity-building.

Pre-Conference Workshops (March 6, Monday and March 7, Tuesday) are envisioned before the main #DigitalHealthAP and AeHIN 5th General meeting for interested participants. The planned workshops are:

    1. AeHIN Interoperability Lab All-Partners Workshop: AeHIN will invite partners who are helping achieve interoperability between their systems to others using an interoperability framework. These include the AeHIN Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab and its partnership with Esri, DHIS2, Tableau, OpenMRS, and OpenHIE. Other eHealth systems that monitor health system performance, universal health coverage (UHC), and health sustainable development goals (SDGs) are also welcome. All partners are enjoined to present their current efforts in updating their systems to achieve system interoperability and data compatibility with other systems via national and international standards. This session will be in the morning and will be followed by partner-specific sessions in the afternoon.
    2. OpenHIE Deep Dive: To understand how to architect and configure the digital health infrastructure required to implement a health information exchange using the interoperability demo as context;
    3. GIS Country level experience, challenges and needs: To present real-world implementations of GIS in healthcare and citing its system benefits. The workshop will discuss the steps by which countries have systematically adopted GIS and the challenges they faced with implementation.
    4. Routine Health Information Systems (RHIS) Workshop: the RHIS team will interact with country representatives and discuss course of action on a training program and course curriculum, PRISM tools, and capacity building and support with data quality, analysis, and use;
    5. Pacific Health Information Network (PHIN) Satellite Workshop: To support delegates from Pacific island countries to meet together to address special issues.

In addition, AeHIN together with ADB, WHO, UNICEF, WBG, USAID, the Health Data Collaborative, Esri, Tableau, DHIS2, and other implementing partners will showcase collaborative projects among countries.

The Digital Health Conference in the Asia-Pacific and AeHIN 5th General Meeting will be comprised of multiple plenary, interactive, parallel, demonstration, and marketplace sessions as outlined below:

  • Plenary sessions are opportunities to relay important messages in a short time. This is where we hope to get the partners to announce their initiatives and how they can contribute to the regional approach to achieving the SDGs via ICT.
  • The Marketplace enables both public and non-government participants to see the spectrum of demand and services surrounding national health information systems.
  • The Meet the Experts session connects countries to resources that are otherwise inaccessible and allows them to have deeper discussions on ways to move forward with their national eHealth development. This session will identify experts in ministries who can also be resource persons for other countries.
  • An enhanced interoperability demonstration will engage the audience by letting them see and participate in a patient-centered eHealth activity. In this session, they can see how an individual can benefit from eHealth but also how the interoperability architecture allows different health programs consolidate around the needs of patients.
  • Interactive Laboratories are breakout sessions that follow the interoperability demo that allow specific sectors (decision-makers/policymakers/program managers, analysts/informaticians, and IT/engineering) to have more intimate opportunities to meet their peers, share their insights about the demo and learn from others. These will be guided by questions and organizers/facilitators with the goal of eliciting country engagement into regional activities such as shared architectures, standards selection and improved inter-country collaboration and communications.

The Conference goals and objectives

General Objectives

  • Share, learn, and prepare to implement digital health capacity building strategies, standardized processes, tools and techniques, and ready-to-use IT solutions towards achieving UHC and SDG.
  • Share current state-of-the-art of digital health in Asia Pacific region for example interoperability architecture (OpenHIE) implementation, Regional Interoperability lab activities
  • Motivate stakeholders to invest in digital health to strengthening health systems

Specific objectives

  • Country sharing on their interoperability and data integration activities (show-and-tell)
  • Compare notes on country digital health infrastructure and M&E systems investment plan
  • Review persistent challenges with deploying the national HIS and digital health strategies
  • Endorse the regional interoperability laboratory
  • Relay the AeHIN Regional Enterprise Architecture Council for Health (REACH) recommendation on the draft interoperability architecture (OpenHIE)
  • Share current state-of-the-art in implementing OpenHIE (Philippines, Myanmar)
  • Country sharing on their interoperability and data integration activities (show-and-tell)
  • Review persistent challenges with deploying the national HIS and eHealth strategies
  • Compare notes on country M&E systems investment plan
  • Share, learn, and prepare to implement capacity building strategies, standardized processes, tools and techniques, and ready-to-use IT solutions towards achieving UHC
  • Endorse the regional interoperability laboratory

#DigitalHealthAP Conference and AeHIN General Meeting Expected Outcomes

  • Established governance and management structures in support of the national health information system
  • Adoption of a national health information systems blueprint
  • Use of a framework to monitor development of the national health information system

Expected conference outcomes: participants will be able to

  • Engage in establishing governance and management structures in support of the national health information system and digital health strategy.
  • Embrace digital health capacity building strategies, standardized processes, tools and techniques, and ready-to-use IT solutions.

Profile of Participants

  • 250 plus representatives from 20+ countries in Asia and the Pacific and development partners consisting of:
    • Key government officials involved in planning, financing or regulating social health protection (Health, Social Welfare, Finance, Planning, ICT Ministries)
    • Social health insurance agencies
    • Academic institutions (health informatics, health financing)
    • Multilateral technical agencies and donors

Side Meetings

  • The Regional Enterprise Architecture Council for Health (REACH) is a group composed of AeHIN members who are TOGAF-trained and/or certified. In Bali (Oct 2015), they confirmed their terms of reference for REACH drafted at the Manila Interoperability Meeting (August 2015) and agree on their program of action (By invitation)
  • Connecting the Regional Networks (Asia-Africa-Pacific Island Countries): Joint AeHIN-ANDH-PHIN planning for their respective regional future Digital Health Conferences (By invitation)
  • The Community of Interoperability Laboratories (COIL) are advocates of interoperability who are interested in setting up one in their countries. This side meeting will confirm the terms of references for the COIL drafted in the Manila Interoperability Meeting and craft the call for expressions of interest. (Open)
  • The AeHIN Research Interest Group (APUHC Research Collaboration) together with the WHO Collaborating Center for eHealth will establish a network focusing on relevant studies around Measurement and Accountability for UHC. (Open)
  • DHIS2 Implementing Countries is a group of representatives from ministries of health and other sectors who are in varying stages of operationalizing information systems at national scale. (Open)

About AeHIN

AeHIN was created by WHO in 2012 to assist countries with their national eHealth development. Our members are composed of senior officers from Ministries of Health, Ministries of ICT, government health insurance agencies, academe, and non-government sectors. We started out as seven individuals from six countries struggling to solve the interoperability problem. Now we have grown to more than 950 from 57 countries.
Since 2012 we have conducted our general meetings as a capacity-building strategy towards achieving interoperability. After a series of trainings and certifications, we are now adopting a framework appraoch to eHealth development. It starts with an eHealth strategy that clarifies the governance, this governance mandates an architecture which in turn defines the standards to be used by applications. Only then can we have a chance at interoperability. Over the years, we have accumulated members who are certified in IT Governance (COBIT5), enterprise architecture (TOGAF), and standards (HL7).