Select Page

By Louise Lamatsch, Policy Assistant, EPHA

Nurses, midwives and healthcare workers in general play a vital role in providing essential health services. As well as providing essential health care, every minute of every day, they play a crucial role in health prevention,e.g. by giving life-saving immunizations and health advice and supporting patients with a range of health conditions. If international recognition through the 2020 year of the nurse and the midwife was not enough, their current efforts on the frontline of battling the novel coronavirus disease shows how essential they are and how thankful we should be.

At  a time of constant change, especially in the digital world, as evidenced by the increased use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the very first step of approaching these emerging digital innovations in health and care is to ensure they are addressed not merely TO the health care workers BUT most importantly, developed in partnership WITH them.

With its new White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI), the European Union has presented I, for the first time, an approach to what looks set to become the most significant, data-driven transformative technology – the future of eHealth The paper, launched in February, is based on trust and excellence and aims to give citizens the confidence to embrace these new emerging technologies. One important area addressed is the emphasis on the skills required to unlock the potential of AI. However, it  is not only a question of improving skills but also of increasing understanding of how such technologies operate and of improving digital health literacy. . Societal mechanisms that promote end user participation in this debate are most needed.  In this regard, the participation of health and care professionals is paramount for an effective adoption of AI regulations.

The European Medical Students Association (EMSA), in a relatively new publication, “Addressing the Needs of the Future Health Workforce” has offered a timely contribution to the debate. They call for three main actions to ensure a successful digital transformation of healthcare: 1) the implementation of digital health into medical education 2) strengthening inter-professional collaboration and 3) providing a European platform to exchange best practices.

Above all, however, the first step towards meaningful implementation is the need for overall acceptance of technology by health and care professionals. The skills required to effectively navigate  the Internet and digital technologies for health are still complex and they remain challenging to many end users. They include the ability to access, properly analyse and evaluate the digital information, to communicate effectively and to create content. In order to improve a better understanding among medical professionals, legislation must ensure collaboration between different stakeholders and within different sectors. Disappointment with digital health is often linked to cultural barriers between technology entrepreneurs, investors, developers, and health workers, often because the latter are not involved in the development of important digital tools they are meant to be using on a routine basis. Therefore AI and other emerging digital innovations must in the future pay even greater attention to safeguarding that they respond to the concrete, day-to-day needs of the professionals they are meant to support.

References:

Klecun, E. (2010) “Digital literacy for health: The promise of Health 2.0”, International Journal of Digital literacy and digital competence, 1 (3), 48 – 57