Estonian EU Presidency – Digital Health… what’s next?

Estonian EU Presidency – Digital Health… what’s next?

Posted on July 17, 2017

The Estonian EU presidency, that started on 1st July for a 6-months period, has as one of its priorities ‘digital health’, aiming to support digital innovation in healthcare, namely through finding a balance with all the interests of Europe, including eHealth (focusing on the right of citizens to control the processing of their data, and the wider use of data for research and innovation). For nurses, this is key! As Digital innovations and big data should enable people to manage their health more independently and should be used for clinical purposes and improve health system governance, and thus lower down the workload of frontline running the system.

The EU countries are striving to respond to an increasing public demand for quality, safety, equity and access to health care, while concurrently being challenged to innovate regarding the sustainability of their health services. The technological changes combined with greater demands for community care, with the economic pressures to reduce costs, puts nurses and nursing into the driving seat to design further and being part of the ‘European Innovative Partnerships’. As such, civil society becomes a partner engaged in the development of the single market.

The EFN has recognised eHealth as part of its quality and safety political agenda, as of rising importance both to the delivery of quality nursing care and to shaping future health policy. Whilst there is great potential within eHealth developments, unfortunately, nurses are too often regarded as merely the passive recipients of eHealth technology rather than being part of shaping it. As a result, nurses are often side-lined by the ICT industry when it is designing these new tools. Nurses – read women – have a vital role to play in the development and shaping of ICT. Nurse leaders need to position themselves at the very core of technological innovation in order to ensure that it develops in a relevant and patient-oriented manner.

The EU guidelines, developed through the EFN ENS4Care EU project, contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy and particularly its flagship initiative Digital Agenda for Europe, in which the European Commission has put forth a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, to develop an economy based on knowledge and innovation. Nurses can play a crucial role in addressing emerging health and social care challenges with innovative frontline solutions and driving the demands for a more efficient, accessible, high-quality and affordable health and social care.

Furthermore, the technology industry can develop products that support the workforce frontline while the health professionals eSkills are further designed from that perspective, instead of IT managers telling nurses and doctors what to do. That dialogue among tech companies and nurses (professional associations and regulators) is urgently needed as algorithmic decision-making and transparency are needed in relation to algorithmic accountable and liability as artificial intelligence is already transforming our society in fundamental ways, revolutionising efficiency in industry and services, and the question of ethics in this transformation remains paramount, as does the equation on “return on investment”. Integrating digital technology, and robots, in the nursing care process can also help recruit young nurses, and could free up nurses’ time to provide more emotional support, allowing nurses time to do the skilled assessment, critical thinking, and life-saving care.