The power of youth in the digital health transition

Chloe Lebbos, Vice President of European Affairs Elect ‘21/22 & Fatumata Seck, Policy Coordinator Elect ‘21/22, EPSA (European Pharmaceutical Students’ Association) @ChloeL_ANEPF @EPSA_Online

Physical distancing and the unprecedented pressure on healthcare providers had a significant impact on healthcare, accelerating the digital transformation of healthcare systems.  Indeed, digital tools have been implemented in almost all aspects of our lives: telemedicine, online portals, apps, etc. 

In order to maintain and develop the use of digital solutions as a tool to facilitate access to care, have a better overview of patients’ profiles and therefore a more personalised medicine, it is essential to have digital transformation paired with comprehensive education, both for healthcare students as well as healthcare professionals. For this purpose, health students are a key driver of changes thanks to their early stage of implementation in the healthcare system, which gives them space for newness and adaptation. Students have a key role in the digital transformation of healthcare, by being the professionals of tomorrow trained in eHealth and also as a source of new ideas and solutions.

Fortunately, eHealth has been a topic discussed among students even before the pandemic. An assessment of knowledge on eHealth and digital skills was conducted during autumn 2017 through a survey amongst European pharmaceutical youth. The survey gathered the opinions and suggestions of 587 pharmaceutical students and recent graduates from all across Europe. Most respondents stated that eHealth and digitalisation has a positive impact on healthcare in the future. Some of the reasons mentioned included the facilitation of communication with patients, more time for patient counselling and the ability to provide high-quality treatment. Nevertheless, it was also mentioned that it is important to ensure that healthcare professionals are the ones facilitating the implementation of eHealth, ensuring that technology is used to improve eHealth and never replacing healthcare professionals. It is also important to keep in mind that there are two major issues associated with digitalisation, the quality and safety of the information provided by the system, and the guarantee of data protection.   

To prepare well-educated healthcare professionals, able to work in several fields of healthcare, the pharmaceutical studies across Europe must cover a wide number of subjects.  According to the EPSA Position Paper on eHealth and Digital Skills, the current pharmaceutical studies are not covering subjects about eHealth and digital skills in the curricula sufficiently. Even so, pharmaceutical students make an effort to acquire these competencies by attending extracurricular activities often promoted by pharmaceutical students’ associations such as EPSA. 

With all this in mind, the European Pharmaceutical Students’ Association would like to emphasise the great importance of developing eHealth and digital skills through the inclusion and improvement of the topic in all pharmaceutical curricula across Europe. Furthermore, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals have a crucial part in the implementation of eHealth solutions into patient care.

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA. 

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