Digital health vs engagement: can education round this up?

Working to promote how technology improves our health and healthcare services, we tend to assume that people will be eager to embrace solutions designed to help them better manage their health. Although it’s true that many people increasingly want to monitor their care themselves, this tendency is mostly related to wellness or fitness purposes.

By
Lila
Stavropoulou

Considering the vast potential of technology in the sector and the opportunities for pharmaceutical and medical companies, improving consumer engagement is a key component for the future of digital health.

Health professionals and patients are a credible source of valid information when assessing and managing the quality of medical care and health technology. This information represents a different view on quality compared to what a health IT company measures.

Key findings from a new report in pharmaceutical care indicated that “digital health technology needs to focus on the patient experience, either in the way patients interact with technology or the way they use it”.

Adding here the crucial insight of professionals in the field, who are at the forefront of digital health interaction, we can identify where our focus should be.

But how can we improve the eHealth experience and, therefore, the quality of life?

User experience: what influences the patient and the professional’s satisfaction?

In a recent article on how a failure of a medical app offered valuable insights for future projects, patients said they could not use the platform because they didn’t understand what it could do or because they couldn’t elaborate on many of its functionalities.

Together with concerns on data security and human interaction, we see here the main reasons that have led to public indifference on digital health solutions; either they don’t understand their purpose and their functionality and/or they use them in parallel with traditional management systems, leading to an even more complicated process.  

This gap in knowledge on how digital health systems work is an issue. But here is where education and literacy come in to change that.

The education gap in digital health

A recent report, published by the European Commission, suggests: “the mere ability to go online is not sufficient to be eHealth literate, and even regular Internet users display very different competency levels when it comes to handling issue-specific content such as health information.”

Let’s ask ourselves a simple question: when it comes to accessing electronic health information, are we able to navigate and interpret the vast amount of online health information across multiple sources?

Despite the increasing interest and investment in digital health tools, little attention has been given to professionals’ eHealth skills.

How many of them receive proper digital health education and training in medical school? The sad truth is that a focus on this is virtually absent. In real life, digital health education means on-the-job learning for most of the new healthcare graduates.

Few, if any, receive any instruction about accessing or using data remotely, conducting a telemedicine consultation, or using genomics to determine proper therapy. On the other hand, faculty members are in the same boat, since only a few are actively engaged in the digital health ecosystem.

Given the fact that most eHealth providers tend to forget this educational and literacy gap, the full experience of eHealth tools leads to a negative perception and a distorted image of its true potential, along with a low engagement rate.

To address this gap, all digital health stakeholders (from academia to state and public-private eHealth companies and NGOs) should give education the importance it deserves. A key feature for the future will be a digital health strategy that includes not only the deployment, but also research and development.

HIMSS is investing in educational activities, organising events, facilitating roundtable discussions before, during and after its international conferences. Learn more about the HIMSS initiative for education here.

Lila Stavropoulou

 is a digital communication professional and a Top50 Global Health Technology Influencer working with start-ups, NGOs, and patients in digital health projects. Currently, she is collaborating with the eHealth Forum, as a Regional Account Manager for Turkey and the Middle East, developing new partnerships to increase collaboration on eHealth projects around the world.

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