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By Martyna Giedrojć, Policy Officer for eHealth and Health Workforce, EPHA

Good news for the many EPHA members working on health workforce issues. The New Skills Agenda for Europewhich aims to ensure a broad set of skills for people of working age also has implications for the health workforce.  The initiative is part of the European Commission’s Strategy on Jobs, Growth and Investment.

At the moment 70 million Europeans lack adequate skills to find a job, and 32% of the EU workforce have low or no digital skills. 15% of the EU workforce have never used the Internet.

In the face of a shrinking health workforce, shortage of health professionals and increasing demand from an ageing population, employers are looking to the digital world for solutions and now needs digitally smart people.

The need for digital skills for health professionals has been acknowledged at international level for a long time.  The European Commission’s eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 (eHAP) provided a roadmap to empower patients and health workers, and included actions to promote skills and digital literacy, while the WHO promoted health workforce development and health systems sustainability in the Global Code of Practice (2010).

However, progress has been slow.  The most recent report by the EU Joint Action Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting (2016) highlighted the lack of digital skills. That is why the adoption of the New Skills Agenda for Europe is an important step.  It pulls together initiatives such as “Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition”, and”Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills”, which aim to address skills shortages in specific economic sectors such as health, and the upcoming review of the Recommendation on Key Competences, which has a focus on health professionals.  It also shows the importance of working together to overcome the health workforce crisis.Only coherent and united co-operation by different parts of the Commission e.g. DG SANTE, DG EMPL, DG DEVE or even DG HOME can result in positive outcomes.

Whilst later this year DG EMPL is going to release a proposal to further analyse and exchange best practices on effective ways to address brain drain, we need start now to nurture our skilled health workers at retaining in their professions, and balance mobility of health professionals thanks to forecasting and predicting health workforces in Europe. As a part of our common goal to create more efficient and sustainable healthcare systems for all, health workers need to receive digital skills training at every level of their education in order to be able to deliver high quality services to their patients in future.  The New Skills Agenda for Europe will surely contribute to the digital transformation of the health workforce for the better.

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