Key aspects to advancing the upscale of digital health: communication and user involvement

15th February 2022

This article was published on behalf of the authors: Carina Dantas, Senior Project Manager and Karolina Mackiewicz, Innovation Director at ECHAlliance, dissemination partners in Gatekeeper.

Complex and varied reasons impact the sustainable adoption of innovations in digital health. Developing solutions for a global market context is challenging and brings to light cultural, systemic, organisational and individual differences. One size does not fit all, so how can we ensure a broad adoption and an adequate answer for citizens and patients’ needs in multiple countries and regions?

Communicating more, communicating better and including all relevant actors in the process are key aspects to advance on the upscale of digital health. A strong focus on citizen and patient empowerment and the inclusion of their views, needs and perspectives is of utmost importance. However, the several co-design and co-creation methodologies seem to often run short, keeping the discussion at a high-level, but with limitations regarding their applicability in practice.

An older adult uses their mobile phone whilst sat at the kitchen table. Source: iStock.

In Gatekeeper, personal values and needs were co-created, not at the abstract level, but embedded in each person’s context, relationship and daily life.

This is very important for the empowerment of citizens and patients, but also to strengthen and enhance the work of IT professionals, namely those developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. Often AI developers bring their own cultural contexts and social pre-conceptions to the algorithms they build, and this may lead to biases and potential harm, especially to the more vulnerable or excluded users.

However, if the AI developers communicate and work closely with the users and other relevant stakeholders, understand their contexts and views, then they can better realize how to select comprehensive datasets and avoid personal biases in the algorithm development. This will also help them to interpret the collected results

An older adult using their laptop whilst sitting at a table. S

AI also needs to be explained in simpler ways and more education and information are an essential investment for all audiences. This is because, only a fruitful collaboration and understanding will enhance the data sharing process around Europe, and subsequently, better research and more competitive products and services.

One other key aspect in which Gatekeeper clearly invested is the inclusion of multiple stakeholders in the design, development and implementation of digital health products and services. Liaising with different regions, countries and even other regions of the world beyond Europe, can help to understand the relevant differences, as well as the necessary collaboration to build relevant products and services.

To contribute to this aim, the Gatekeeper project launched a Community of Interest, bringing together a network of stakeholders interested in healthcare and technology, within four areas of interest: People; Solutions; Business; Data and regulations, that already has 250 multidisciplinary participants across Europe.

If you are interested in the Gatekeeper project, stay tuned through our social networks, webinars and newsletter.

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Note: This post was developed within the scope of the Digital Health Society Summit 2021, Panel discussion “Cultural and regional aspects influencing digital health adoption and upscale”.

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