OECD Secretary-General

OECD-BIAC Forum on Health: Digital & Partnerships


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General 

14 December 2018 - OECD, France

 (As prepared for delivery)



Dear Mr. Mills, Ms. Spanou, Mr. Ruiz, BIAC Members, Colleagues, Friends,

It is my pleasure to participate in today’s Business at OECD 3rd Forum on Health, Digital and Partnerships, which focuses on a number of issues, which lie at the heart of our strategic agenda.

Our Global Strategy Group, which took place last month, centred on Promoting Innovation, and many participants highlighted health as one area where innovation for inclusivity and sustainability is particularly important. Next May at our Ministerial Council Meeting, we will take these reflections further and focus on harnessing digital transformation for sustainable development. People-centred approaches to health are a crucial goal and enabling factor in these efforts.


Multiplying digital opportunities for the health sector

Digitalisation has brought new opportunities and advancements to health systems. For example, telemedicine can enable doctors to reach previously isolated patients; and digital health apps and wearables, such as smart watches, are empowering patients by giving them access to more information about their own health.

Moreover, as you discussed this morning, information lies at the heart of new ways of generating “value”. New types of information, for example, and better use of information can contribute to high-performing and people-centred health systems.

Here at the OECD, we have been working hard to harness and to multiply the opportunities that information can create in the health sector. Let me briefly explain how.


The OECD is focusing on the future of health

Through our Patient Reported Indicators Surveys, or PaRIS, initiative, we will be asking patients about their experience and the outcomes of their care. We will ask about what matters to them – whether treatment reduced their pain, for example, or whether the treatment was properly explained. The PaRIS initiative will thus facilitate a much needed shift from health systems centred on care providers to health systems centred on what people need.

We are also working to help health systems make the most of the data made available by digital and other means. According to the International Data Corporation estimates, more than 2,300 exabytes of health data will be produced in 2020 – that is an astonishing two thousand three hundred billion gigabytes! To give you a comparison, an average laptop today has about 500 gigabytes of storage.

Better use of this data, while still emphasising security and patient confidentiality, is key for improving clinical outcomes, research and system performance.

We are also conscious of the fact that the health sector still lags behind most other sectors in making the most of this wealth of data. For one, there are obstacles to better sharing and linking the massive amounts of information collected in health systems with detailed clinical and other data. As of 2017, only half of OECD countries regularly linked their existing datasets to monitor healthcare quality.

As such, the OECD Council Recommendation on Health Data Governance, endorsed by OECD Health Ministers in 2017, provides a framework to further progress with privacy-respectful use of health data. Building on this framework, next year, we will launch a report on Knowledge-Based Health Systems. The report will discuss how health data and digital technology can be used to build a health system that continuously learns, adapts and improves care and health.


Partnerships will unlock the full power of innovation

Looking ahead, greater co-operation between the private and public sectors on health issues will be critical to unlock the full power of digital innovation for economic growth and the public good.

Partnerships, including at the international level, are essential to connect the brightest minds and to promote research on complex health issues, especially where upfront R&D expenditures are vast and payoffs uncertain. For example, too many failures to tackle dementia have reduced incentives for the industry to invest in improving the lives of the 19 million men and women living with dementia. In this respect, it was very encouraging to see key stakeholders and leaders reiterate their commitment to address dementia earlier this month at the World Dementia Council in London.

Anti-Microbial Resistance is another health issue where public-private co-operation for research could save lives. Our report Stemming the Superbug Tide: Just a Few Dollars More reminds us that, without prompt and targeted action, heightened resistance could cost the lives of around 2.4 million persons in Europe, North America and Australia between 2015 and 2050. Better public private co-operation in developing new antibiotics is needed to reactivate the R&D pipeline.

Tackling obesity is yet another example of how governments and businesses should work together for better health. About one in five adults in the G20 and OECD countries is obese. One of the main drivers of the obesity epidemic is the environment that we live in, which is often not “engineered” in a way that makes healthy choices easier than unhealthy ones.

The public and private sector could work together to create an enabling environment for healthier choices. For example, drawing on the workshop we organised with BIAC earlier this year, we could work together to provide more easily understood information on nutrition; and it could encourage healthier environments in schools and the workplace through better food options and facilities for exercise.

Globally, partnerships are also critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals including SDG 3 on good health and well-being. The OECD contributes to this effort by partnering with the UN family, for example with the ILO and WHO to address the projected global shortfall of 18 million health workers, and with WHO, OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and FAO to address antimicrobial resistance. The OECD is also a member of UHC2030 – the global movement to build stronger health systems for universal health coverage.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Citizens’ health today will shape the future of our societies and economies; this speaks volumes to the importance of our healthcare systems. Harnessing digital opportunities, and strengthening our partnerships will help us to design, develop and deliver better health policies for better lives. Thank you.



See also:

OECD work on Health

OECD work on Going Digital


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