Assessing the Implementation of Digital Innovations in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic to Address Key Public Health Functions

Scoping Review of Academic and Nonacademic Literature

Published in: JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 8, Issue 7, e34605 (July 2022). doi: 10.2196/34605

Posted on RAND.org on July 21, 2022

by Joe Francombe, Gemma-Claire Ali, Emily Ryen Gloinson, Carolina Feijao, Katherine I. Morley, Salil Gunashekar, Helena de Carvalho Gomes

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Background

Digital technologies have been central to efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, a range of literature has reported on developments regarding the implementation of new digital technologies for COVID-19–related surveillance, prevention, and control.

Objective

In this study, scoping reviews of academic and nonacademic literature were undertaken to obtain an overview of the evidence regarding digital innovations implemented to address key public health functions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to expand on the work of existing reviews by drawing on additional data sources (including nonacademic sources) by considering literature published over a longer time frame and analyzing data in terms of the number of unique digital innovations.

Methods

We conducted a scoping review of the academic literature published between January 1, 2020, and September 15, 2020, supplemented by a further scoping review of selected nonacademic literature published between January 1, 2020, and October 13, 2020. Both reviews followed the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) approach.

Results

A total of 226 academic articles and 406 nonacademic articles were included. The included articles provided evidence of 561 (academic literature) and 497 (nonacademic literature) unique digital innovations. The most common implementation settings for digital innovations were the United States, China, India, and the United Kingdom. Technologies most commonly used by digital innovations were those belonging to the high-level technology group of integrated and ubiquitous fixed and mobile networks. The key public health functions most commonly addressed by digital innovations were communication and collaboration and surveillance and monitoring.

Conclusions

Digital innovations implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been wide ranging in terms of their implementation settings, the digital technologies used, and the public health functions addressed. However, evidence gathered through this study also points to a range of barriers that have affected the successful implementation of digital technologies for public health functions. It is also evident that many digital innovations implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are yet to be formally evaluated or assessed.

Research conducted by

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