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 use of data is driving evidence-based decisions and accelerating impact through analytic tools such as artificial intelligence which are having similar profound impacts. 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 health transformation powered by health data and digital tools is no longer developing the necessary technology – smartphones, mobile apps and other software. The technology is already there. Rather focus is needed on the foundations of digital and data – the policies, interoperability standards, capacity, public engagement, and governance required for an impactful transformation. A genuine health transformation powered by health data and digital tools is a political choice.

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


Read the thematic chapter Digital health at a glance in Health at a Glance 2023 - OECD Indicators (November 2023)

FOCUS - Health Data Governance for the Digital Age - Implementing the OECD Recommendation on Health Data Governance


Health Data Governance for the Digital Age - Implementing the OECD Recommendation on Health Data Governance 
OECD Health Policy Studies, published in May 2022

This report provides an overview of the implementation of the Health Data Governance Recommendation (2017) for its first five years through 2021. The Report finds that while there are examples of good progress, overall many Adherents are still working towards implementation in areas including data sharing, accessibility, quality, interoperability and security and privacy protections. Efforts to support the implementation and dissemination of the Recommendation will continue for the next reporting cycle (2022-27) with a focus on cybersecurity, harmonising health data governance to allow for multi-country projects, growing engagement with the public and improving global health data interoperability.


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.



Empowering the health workforce: Strategies to make the most of the digital revolution 
November 2020

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. 

Health in the 21st Century

Health in the 21st Century: Putting Data to Work for Stronger Health Systems 
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, healthcare providers, payers, industry as well as patients, citizens and civil society.


OECD Health Working Papers

Podcasts, blogs, interviews and articles

Find out more about our work on Health


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.

  • The OECD Policy Framework on Digital Security: Cybersecurity for Prosperity (December 2022) charts the economic and social dimension of cybersecurity, highlights the OECD approach to digital security policy and equips policymakers to use OECD digital security Recommendations in developing better policies. The Framework also identifies linkages with other policy areas addressed through existing OECD standards and tools.
  • OECD members adopted several legal instruments in 2022, acknowledging the essential work for a global approach to digital security:

Declaration on a Trusted, Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Future
Declaration on Government Access to Personal Data held by Private Sector Entities
Recommendation of the Council on Digital Security Risk Management
Recommendation of the Council on National Digital Security Strategies
Recommendation of the Council on the Treatment of Digital Security Vulnerabilities
Recommendation of the Council on the Digital Security of Products and Services

OECD.AI Policy Observatory: Focus on Health

This webpage provides the latest on artificial intelligence (AI) and health. In healthcare, AI systems help diagnose disease and prevent outbreaks, discover treatments, tailor interventions and power self-monitoring tools. They can facilitate personalised healthcare 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.


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