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Unlocking digital healthcare in lower- and middle-income countries

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted—and exacerbated—the gaps in healthcare systems in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Prior to the pandemic, almost a third of the population in those countries lived more than two hours away from essential healthcare services, and the ratio of healthcare workers to population was typically well below the minimum recommended by WHO.1 The loss of healthcare workers to COVID-19 and the disruption of transport systems because of lockdowns have worsened the impact of these issues.

However, a silver lining of the pandemic has been the growth in digital tools, with companies reporting an acceleration in the adoption of digital technology by several years. Digital technologies have tremendous potential not only to improve countries’ responses to infectious-disease threats but also to strengthen primary healthcare. McKinsey and the Exemplars in Global Health have had a yearlong research collaboration focused on assessing digital tools for primary healthcare in LMICs (prioritizing those used during the COVID-19 pandemic) to understand how to harness digital tools to transform primary healthcare systems and to achieve step-change improvements in healthcare.


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