Countries in the European Region adopt first-ever digital health action plan
Health ministers and delegates from WHO/Europe’s 53 Member States have adopted the Region’s first-ever digital health action plan – an ambitious agenda that will leverage digital transformation in Europe and central Asia with the aim of improving people’s health and well-being.
Meeting on 12 September 2022 at the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, the ministers and delegates approved a resolution recognizing the critical role and potential of digital tools in the health sector, and building on the lessons learned during nearly 3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital health is among the 4 flagship areas of the WHO European Programme of Work 2020–2025 (EPW) – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”. The new action plan is a concrete step towards making the EPW a reality by leveraging digital tools to advance universal health coverage, protect people from health emergencies, and promote health and well-being in the Region.
Meeting health challenges with the help of digital tools
The wider adoption of digital tools for health has real potential to help governments and people in the Region as they continue to work towards meeting existing health challenges, including those brought about by the pandemic.
Digital health helps expand the concept of electronic health (eHealth) to cover areas such as:
- telemedicine – ensuring people can access health services regardless of where they live;
- health data and health information systems – ensuring authorities have the information they need to develop health policies;
- artificial intelligence and big data – supporting clinicians, providers and policy-makers in planning or implementing interventions; and
- countering the online infodemic – helping people trust high-quality health information.
The newly adopted action plan was developed following consultations with partners and the 53 countries of the Region. It takes into consideration countries’ priorities in these and other areas, as well as their needs and challenges, including issues with access to digital health services among vulnerable groups.
Putting patients at the centre of digital solutions
For digital solutions to truly succeed, the people using them need to be provided with the right training and knowledge.
Dr Azzopardi-Muscat continued, “The digital literacy of all users should be a key component of any successful digital health strategy. Together with governments in our Region, we will work on solutions that put the needs of patients and health workers at the centre.”
The plan encourages countries to prioritise advancing digital health literacy to help achieve national health goals, improve health system performance, and guide future digital health investments and transformation. It proposes they do so by acknowledging the needs of citizens and health workers while promoting an integrated care approach that institutionalises digital health in the Region.