Population and Public Health

European Cooperation Solutions to Promote Digital Inclusion and Increase the Resilience of Society

A patient participates in a telehealth visit with their healthcare provider

[HIMSS and the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health co-hosted the 3rd annual Digital Health Advisory Group for Europe (DHAGE) High-Level Meeting. DHAGE is a thought leadership platform for key decision-makers in Europe to identify synergies and nurture collaborations on digital health policies. The outcome of the high-level meeting is documented in the following report that focuses on collaborative actions, policy recommendations and suggestions for joint strategic initiatives.]

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the pre-existing health disparities around the world and highlighted digital inclusion as the key ingredient for building the resilience of our society. While digital inclusion and literacy are not specific to healthcare, their role surfaced as one of the most important to ensure continued access to information and healthcare during the pandemic.

In order to get the most out of digital health investments, the international community must share common goals in addressing the barriers to digital inclusion: lack of digital skills, connectivity, and the accessibility and user-friendliness of health services. This complex problem requires holistic, cross-administrative development, follow-up of new tools and approaches, and their evaluation.

Successful health policy requires that all aspects of equitable access are addressed, including gender, age, sexual orientation, different cultures and neural and intellectual diversity. Wider human rights issues are addressed as we promote digital inclusion in healthcare, to ensure that no one is left behind.

Members of the DHAGE believe that there is the need for continued dialogue on health equity. We must ask ourselves how we are going to sustain the conversation, move towards action and meet our own expectations to provide high quality digital healthcare to all patients. We should not be complacent with digitalisation benefiting only resourceful or digitally literate patients.

The workshop covered digital inclusion and resilience in three closely interlinked roundtable discussions:

  • Access to digital health for everyone, everywhere (health equity)
  • A digitally enabled workforce of the future
  • International solidarity and interoperability

DHAGE Calls to Action:

  1. Ensure digital inclusion in the design of health and social services. Mandate healthcare service providers to demand more inclusive, interactive, understandable, accessible and easy-to-use services from all digital development done both in-house and by private sector companies, using opportunities in procurement.
  2. Cross-sectional response is required to tackle digital exclusion and promote inclusion. There is the need to bring together social, health and technical communities. The digital services must be based on life events and needs of citizens rather than organisational needs.
  3. Enable the upskilling and empowerment of the workforce with the competencies and skills needed for the effective use of digital health technologies, including promoting the use and assessment of new digital tools by all.
  4. Develop a Global Interoperability Maturity Model, including a reference to digital inclusion, which provides data quality assessment tools and standards to be endorsed at both international and national level.
  5. As part of generating a better knowledge base and body of evidence for promoting digital inclusion, the participating international organisations should set up and fund an initiative to gather experience, develop both policies and practical action, and test these.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.