If the European Health Data Space (EHDS) is wanting to be successful when it launches in 2025, it is indeed imperative that it address the fact that nearly half of Europeans do not have any digital skills. Elevating digital literacy is a top priority requirement with regards to this.
The EHDS, which was proposed by the European Commission in May last year and is expected to enter the final stage of interinstitutional discussions this autumn, comes with the aim of empowering citizens to make use of their health data while at the same time also enhancing healthcare and research.
Anyway, it is indeed important to enhance digital literacy all across the continent so as to be effective. According to the European Commission, an estimated 42% of Europeans currently do not have basic digital skills. Although several EU initiatives have been brought into play so as to enhance these abilities, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) along with other organisations emphasise the need for further action, especially concerning the EHDS.
EPHA states that merely having access to tech is insufficient for patients to effectively utilise their electronic health data and make informed decisions regarding the sharing of their information.
The fact is that if Europeans lack digital skills, they may face the risk of falling behind and missing out on the actual benefits of improved healthcare scenarios.
A new report published recently by the European office of the World Health Organisation highlights the relevance of making urgent investments, fostering innovation, and also promoting inclusion so as to fully benefit from the promise that digital health has in the offing.
As per a report, it was discovered that only 27 out of the 53 nations in the WHO European region have put in place policies and strategies that are aimed at enhancing digital health literacy. The increasing digitization of health systems has the possibility to further aggravate the already prominent health disparities that exist both within and across countries.
As per the report, digital exclusion happens to be a significant contributor to inequality and can prove to give out adverse health outcomes. The report specifically highlights the concerns that are related to ageing as a major point for the WHO European Region.
It is indeed unfortunate that individuals who happen to lack digital skills, such as older individuals or those living in rural areas, are often the most likely to benefit from digital health tools and measures. Hans Kluge, the regional director of WHO Europe, puts stress on the importance of addressing this imbalance so as to facilitate the digital shift of the health sector.
There is relatively a prominent optimism with regards to the potential impact of digitization across rural areas, which are often referred to as medical deserts because of their limited access to healthcare vis-a-vis to more densely populated regions.
The report points out three key recommendations for enhancing the efficacy of health systems’ digital solutions. These suggestions include ensuring access to trustworthy as well as affordable broadband, enhancing security measures for health data, and also encouraging the usage of digital health tools that are interoperable.