Digital innovation for sustainable global health systems

Health care increasingly relies on the proper use of a broad spectrum of data requiring innovative solutions for efficient and secure data management and analysis. In this context, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) provide new opportunities to increase healthcare workers’ capacities and competencies, which are essential to sustain health systems. There is a global shortage of trained medical specialists in several medical fields, which mainly affects developing countries. For example, there are countries with less than one pathologist per 9 million people, which prevents patients with cancer from getting a proper diagnosis. Without adequate diagnosis, there will be no proper therapy even when medication would be available.

There is increasing evidence that AI can assist medical professionals in diagnostics and improves their working capacity, which provides new opportunities to cope with the global shortage of trained medical specialists.

To avoid developing countries from benefitting from the advancement of digital health and AI in medicine, we propose placing more emphasis on the role of research and innovation, particularly digital health and AI in the agenda of UN SDGs for health.

This includes creating a secure and trusted environment for the management of health data for patients in their homeland. The international scientific community should be enabled and encouraged to contribute to advancing health care in these countries by analyzing the data and developing new IT tools and AI algorithms tailored to the specific needs. For this goal, solutions should be implemented that keep the data in the secure and trusted homeland environment for analysis. This means that data do not need to be sent abroad to the researcher, but the researcher analyses the original environment’s data (bringing the algorithms to the data instead of sending the data to the algorithms).

This should be complemented by the international harmonization of legal frameworks and fair benefit-sharing models. Although initiatives in the US and Europe have demonstrated such approaches’ feasibility, concepts are lacking for broad implementation, particularly in developing countries.


Univ. Prof. Dr. Kurt Zatloukal

Head of the Diagnostic and Research Center for Molecular Biomedicine

Medical University of Graz

Neue Stiftingtalstrasse 6

A-8010 Graz


Tel: +43 316 385 71731