Digital health plays a growing role across Europe despite the fact that there are still many uncertainties regarding its technical, legal, ethical and financial aspects. Mobile Health (mHealth) in particular, enabled through smartphones, tablets and computers, provides patients and carers, but also healthcare professionals and the wider public, with multi-purpose complementary tools that can be useful to support everyday health and disease management and professional practice.
As a consequence, digital tools are gradually changing how patients and professionals communicate and interact with each other, and by enabling patients to compile, monitor and analyse their health data they are also creating a new relationship between Europeans and their health systems. While patients want to be more actively involved as “co-managers” of their health, innovative and cost-effective digital solutions are being embraced by health systems that struggle to cope with growing demand for services due to demographic developments and the rise of chronic diseases and multiple morbidities.
This discussion paper explores some of the key benefits and also highlights some disadvantages of digital health solutions in many of the health and disease areas worked on by EPHA members. Can digital health solutions contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – notably the reduction of non-communicable and chronic diseases and the achievement of universal access to good quality healthcare? The paper provides a snapshot of the use of digital health for health stakeholders and focuses in particular on whether and how technology adds value to their daily tasks – does it facilitate or hinder better health and wellbeing?
A key finding of this paper is that some benefits are universal – e.g. more control over routine processes and more active engagement in (co-)managing health – while others are specific, i.e. directly related to particular conditions and the needs of patients.
Policy Officer for Health Systems