Report – Cultural and regional aspects influencing digital health adoption and upscale session at DHSS21

2nd December 2021

On the 24th of November 2021, The Digital Health Society (DHS) and the ECHAlliance hosted a panel session within the Digital Health Society Summit 2021, on “Cultural and regional aspects influencing digital health adoption and upscale”, involving representatives from the EU projects Gravitate Health, Valuecare, Gatekeeper and Brainteaser.

Moderated by Carina Dantas, Senior International Project Manager at ECHAlliance, the session counted with the rich ideas and contributions of the following panellists:

  • Giovanna Ferrari, Ph.D, Pfizer, Regional Labeling Lead at Pfizer and Project Lead for GRAVITATE HEALTH 
  • Vanja Vasiljev, MSc, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Department of Social Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Rijeka, Faculty of Medicine, for VALUECARE
  • Carla Greubel, PhD Candidate at Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, for GATEKEEPER
  • Barbara Di Camillo, Full Professor in Computer Science, Department of Information Engineering, University of Padova for BRAINTEASER

The session aimed to advance and discuss some of the many complex reasons that impact the sustainable adoption of innovations in digital health across the EU or even worldwide, mainly those connected to cultural, systemic, organisational and individual differences.

The session panellists departed from the premise that one size does not fit all, towards discussing the different aspects that can influence a broad adoption and an adequate answer for citizens and patients’ needs in multiple countries and regions.

One key aspect discussed was the inclusion of multiple stakeholders in the design, development and implementation of digital health products and services, bringing together different regions, countries and even parts of the world beyond Europe can help to understand the relevant differences and then collaborate to provide targeted but still harmonised solutions and support.

A strong focus on citizen and patient empowerment and the inclusion of their views, needs and perspectives was highly advocated and considered of utmost importance.

The discussion included an extra mile to add to traditional co-design and co-creation, with the importance of analysing personal values and needs, not at the abstract level, but embedded in each person’s context, relationships, and daily life. 

This is very important on the side of citizens and patients, but also in relation to the IT professionals, namely those developing Artificial Intelligence solutions. It is more than expected that AI developers bring their own contexts and pre-conceptions to the algorithms they build, and this may lead to biases and potential harms, especially to the more vulnerable or excluded users. Thus, if they communicate and relate closely to the users and other relevant stakeholders, understand their contexts and views, they can better understand how to select comprehensive datasets and avoid personal biases in the algorithm development, as well as in the interpretation of the results assembled.

On a complementary view, also AI needs to be explained in simpler ways and more education and information are an essential investment for all publics, because only a fruitful collaboration and understanding may also enhance the data sharing process around Europe, and subsequently, better research and more accurate solutions.

Take-home messages are: communicating more, communicating better and including all relevant actors in the process are key aspects to advance on the upscale of digital health.

Watch the recording of the session here:

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