Exploring the educational value of digital health platforms: Insights from MedicineAfrica and Care Opinion

Exploring the educational value of digital health platforms

Medicine Africa

Given their interest in digital health, Dr Dimitra Petrakaki and Dr Petros Chamakiotis have been leading and participating in research projects exploring how digital health can generate different types of value for different stakeholders. Their premise is that existing studies have taken a critical perspective toward the economic and technical function of digital health platforms, often at the expense of the social, and more specifically the educational, value they can create. There needs to be an appreciation that platforms vary in purpose and function and that there is scope for them to produce societal value that is orientated toward the improvement of healthcare delivery and clinical practice in developed and developing countries.

In light of the above, they help a workshop in September which aimed to:

• Facilitate a debate around the organisation, function and effects of digital health platforms on quality of care, healthcare practice and delivery;
• Disseminate knowledge about the social value of digital health platforms; and
• Build a network with relevant representatives from the health platform economy, academics, healthcare professionals and students, with the aim of enhancing the prospects for future research collaboration.

The workshop took an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together researchers and practitioners from the fields of medicine, sociology, global and development studies and management studies to debate the above issues using a comparative approach. An interdisciplinary perspective is absolutely necessary given the multifaceted sociotechnical nature of digital health platforms.

Listening about different methodological choices adopted by researchers exploring digital health platforms from different perspectives enabled them to elicit points of convergence and divergence in the delivery of online health education (between developed and developing countries) and appreciate the contextual significance of the produced effects and values.

The workshop covered the following topics for discussion:

• Organisation and function of digital health platforms and of their purposes;
• Exploration and comparison of the different ways in which online health education is delivered; and
• Identification and discussion of a range of effects (on clinical practice and quality of care, health benefits, knowledge development, capacity building etc.) online health education delivered via platforms has on the recipient professionals, organisations, countries and societies at large.

Directions for Future Research

The workshop ended with a break-out session, depicted on p.8, whereby speakers and audience collectively identified the following questions that future research on health platforms should be addressing:
• Is the potential for social value creation embedded in platforms’ design or is it generated independently of it?
• What are the politics of platforms and the politics of values? Whose and what values are promoted on healthcare platforms?
• The ambiguous quality of big health data and their implications for healthcare providers’ accountability.
• The ethics of re-using public health data (such as those found on social media and other health platforms) and the ways of doing so for research purposes.


This work was supported by a symposium support grant from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. We would also like to thank our invited speakers and attendees who contributed to a fruitful and fun workshop, the University of Sussex Business School for hosting the workshop, Corinna Hattersley-Mitchell for supporting it administratively, and Camille Aubry who live-scribed the workshop.

Drs. Dimitra Petrakaki and Petros Chamakiotis

Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness

Dr Dimitra Petrakaki and Dr Petros Chamakiotis obtained funding from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness and organised a workshop on 16/09/2019 exploring the educational value of digital health platforms.

For more information about Exploring the educational value of digital health platforms: Insights from MedicineAfrica and Care Opinion, the workshop, the invited speakers and live-scribed visuals of their talks, read the workshop creative booklet.

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By: Elizabeth Kellingley
Last updated: Thursday, 14 November 2019