It has been a while since we started hearing about this wonderful world that is digital transformation in health. And although COVID-19 pandemic speeded up a slow process of technological adoption in healthcare, we are facing some struggles along the way.
Julia Hagen, representing the German Health Innovation Hub, compared changing a software in healthcare like a divorce. And I would add that is frequently one of those where you try to avoid, although you know it will happen – that’s digital transformation in health, inevitable and needed. These times showed us that it can happen quicker while increasing efficiency, providing useful services such as teleconsultations and being embedded in our daily life such as contact tracing apps.
Interoperability plays a key role to promote data sharing among different healthcare services, regions, and countries. Privacy and security must not be neglected since they ensure that patients and health professionals trust the tools they’re using to achieve better health outcomes. And even when digital health strategies seem amazing in paper, a lot of them fail to be implemented among a workforce without proper training on digital skills.
A regulatory framework and standardised criteria are crucial for the digital health panorama in Europe and worldwide. Already in October 2020, Germany will start providing digital health apps (DiGA) as certified treatments under the Digital Healthcare Act. Not every app or digital device will enter this market, but only those with structural impact and verified health benefits.
We’ve identified the obstacles that we must overcome to succeed in a complete digital transformation in healthcare, and there are remarkable examples of an incredible future waiting for us. Smart4Diagnostics and iLof are ready to promote automatized, secure and personalised diagnostics and treatments. And they did involve patients and healthcare professionals in the development process, ensuring that they were answering real needs. Lydia Montandon highlighted this call for participatory design, considering multidisciplinary views and even bottom-up implemented solutions. Will health systems be prepared for these technological advances and methodological changes? Maybe not – maybe they need to be redesigned to embrace it.
But we shouldn’t be obsessed with this: overdigitalisation with proper criteria is not the way we should go. We can make this marriage work if we focus on what really matters: providing innovations that can solve patients and health professionals’ problems and empower them.