Digital health not accessible by everyone equally
7 February 2023
Concerns about the equitable use of digital tools for health have been raised by a recent WHO/Europe study that found that digital health technologies are not equally accessible to all communities and regions in Europe. According to the findings, people who are in poor health are among those who have the greatest difficulty gaining access to these tools.
The Public Health Data, Knowledge, and Research Directorate of Public Health Wales collaborated on the study. It provides a summary of the evidence regarding inequity in access to, use of, and engagement with digital health technologies from 2016 to 2022.
That is the only way we can truly harness the power of digital solutions to create a more equitable digital health future that doesn’t leave anyone behind, he says.
Health-enhancing smart devices and connected equipment are digital technologies. Digital platforms, software, wearable devices, and tools for capturing and sharing data and pertinent health information across systems are among them. These technologies have the potential to support health professionals and enhance diagnosis, treatment, and care quality.
The study reveals that patterns of access, use, and engagement with digital technologies vary across populations. These patterns are the primary drivers of inequity in access to and use of digital health tools. People from ethnic minorities and those who struggle with language barriers are less likely to use digital health technologies in urban areas.
People with higher incomes and higher levels of education were also found to use digital health tools more frequently, according to the study. Additionally, younger people were found to use tools more frequently than older adults.
Teacher Alisha Davies, Head of Exploration and Assessment at General Wellbeing Ribs, makes sense of, “This is one of the most thorough checking surveys of value in computerized wellbeing advances in the WHO European Area. The findings emphasize the significance of incorporating equity into the development and application of digital health technology in order to ensure that benefits are maximized and that unintended consequences are avoided, as well as the significant evidence gaps across the ten domains of equity.
That’s what the review cautions, while numerous medical care suppliers are progressively utilizing computerized wellbeing advancements to empower patients and the general population to all the more likely deal with their wellbeing, an emphasis on these advancements “may coincidentally broaden existing imbalances in wellbeing, assuming realized disparities in access, use and commitment with advanced innovation are not thought of and tended to”.
These difficulties can be overcome in a number of ways, including:
- establishing a common framework for monitoring health sector engagement with digital technology;
- mapping digital infrastructure inequalities;
- addressing boundaries to get to computerized wellbeing;
- determining the most efficient methods for developing digital skills for the most in need; also,
- tending to access for those with handicaps or language boundaries.
Plan for regional digital health The adoption and growth of digital health systems have the potential to benefit a large number of people by making health care more targeted and efficient. The WHO/Europe regional digital health action plan places patient-centered, equitable approaches at its core.
Countries in the Region are encouraged by WHO/Europe to develop integrated solutions for monitoring and evaluating digital health policies and interventions, strengthen health equity approaches, and promote gender equality.
Although this WHO definition of digital health is not universal, its scope and introduction of a common narrative and understanding are positive. Indeed, digital health must be viewed as a broader concept in which technologies that combine for universal healthcare access, applications in a variety of multidisciplinary fields and ecosystems in healthcare, and the health journey of individuals—as patients who require (access to) care and as citizens able to live healthier lives and prevent illness—serve the purposes of healthcare.
Digital technologies are important enablers in digital health, but they are not the goals. Big data, artificial intelligence, as well as the Internet of Things and other similar technologies, as well as the insights and actions they enable are used to improve patient health as well as the effectiveness of healthcare delivery, healthcare systems, healthcare facilities like hospitals, the lives and work of healthcare professionals, and healthcare innovation, among other things.