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A future vision for digital health: What will 2030 look like?

A future vision for digital health: What will 2030 look like?
CONNECTINGHEALTH

What could a future vision of digital health look like towards the European Agenda for 2030? ECHAlliance Innovation Team members Robyn Freiheit and Karolina Mackiewicz reflect on this subject following the success of CONNECTINGHEALTH’s future workshops.

As leads of the CONNECTINGHEALTH preparatory action, we at ECHAlliance sought out to explore this question over the course of the last six months across ten thematic, interactive, multidisciplinary workshops. By sharing multi-stakeholder perspectives to brainstorm about the enablers, barriers, and uncertainties surrounding the topic overall and different themes, we worked towards coming up with creative solutions to the potential challenges. 

If you don’t know, now you know…. Within the European Union, we are currently on the path to the “digital decade” – a guided course with various concrete targets and objectives for 2030, which is working towards Europe’s overall digital transformation. With this in mind, the solutions that are put forward must consider people at the forefront, freedom of choice, safety and security, solidarity and inclusion, participation, and sustainability. Coinciding, that also the Regional Digital Health Action Plan for the World Health Organization (WHO)- Europe 2023-2030 was launched with the intent to support countries in “leveraging and scaling up digital transformation for better health an in aligning digital technology investment decisions with their health systems needs, while fully respecting the values of equity, solidarity and human rights” – further emphasising that the time is now for futures discussions on this matter!

By highlighting a plethora of different topics within our CONNECTINGHEALTH workshops such as digital health skills, personalised nutrition, reimbursements and financial mechanisms, virtual clinical trials, and more, we were able to gather key insight into the matter to not only acknowledge the considerations of the EU and WHO frameworks previously mentioned, but to also prompt effective next steps for what needs to be done to manifest the desired future scenario. 

Photo: active discussions in the final CH Futures workshop at the 2023 Health and Wellness Summit at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain (March 2023)

When bringing together the results of our workshops, barriers towards a pro digital-health future included: 

  • Low digital literacy
  • Lack of trust
  • Concerns about data safety
  • Poor data quality
  • Conservative mindsets
  • Lack of standards
  • Limited resources
  • Fragmented policy and implementation frameworks
  • Lack of collaboration

On the contrary, the enablers of a future reality which successfully implements and integrates digital health that were most regularly identified included:

  • Electronic health records
  • Cost reductions
  • Promise of health equity
  • New insurance models
  • Improving technology
  • Increased public interest
  • Increased use of digital health solutions 
  • Opportunity for engagement of the various demographics 
  • Digital health policies

These enablers and barriers are very much inline with the literature 1 2 3, and continue to showcase the importance of co-creation in health services. The future of digital health requires collaboration amongst all elements of the healthcare ecosystem, including: healthcare professionals, health systems, the patient, the insurers, the regulators, the payers, and the pharma industry. 

Bringing these together, we developed the four scenarios for digital health in 2030. They plotted around the two critical uncertainties: development of digital health policies (low-high) and people’s empowerment (low-high), as seen on the image below.  

Shortly about each scenario:

  • Digital health is health – Empowered and informed healthcare professionals, supporting staff and citizens who embrace new systems which address reimbursement and financial mechanisms. They also have adequate training to implement efficiently and effectively the digital solutions based on data and AI in their daily practice.
  • It’s a limbo – There are shared standards, some good practices and advanced investments in digital health (technologies, training, implementation) but the update remains low due to the skepticism and lack of understanding of the added value of digital among people, who still prefer a F2F interaction with the healthcare professionals. 
  • The black hole – Technology giants have a much bigger control on the health sector compared to the current state, having an effect also on the financial mechanisms. People use digital services like applications but with a little understanding of how it influences their health and what happens with their data. 
  • The status quo? – People love digital solutions for health and wellbeing and for how efficient and effective they can be. However, due to the limited regional and national uptake, the use remains fragmented and on a case-by-case basis. 

So, the groundwork is done, but how do we get there? The uncertainties with regards to the future of digital health call for proactive, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder action. Dialogue is the first step, but beyond this, we need regional and national commitment to make lasting change. What needs to happen between now and 2030 and what will you commit to doing to make it happen?

Authors:
Robyn Freiheit, Junior Projects Manager, ECHAlliance
Karolina Mackiewicz, Innovations Director, ECHAlliance

  1. https://www.jabil.com/blog/digital-health-infographic.html
  2. https://nam.edu/the-promise-of-digital-health-then-now-and-the-future/
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fdgth.2022.1014375/full

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