What can Europe to do Bridge the Digital Health Divide? | Healthcare IT News

What can Europe to do Bridge the Digital Health Divide? | Healthcare IT News

The EU is pushing to move health data online. But can member states - and their citizens - keep up, asks Frieda Klotz. Policy-makers in the EU are promoting an array of digital health programs, such as the European Health Data Space unveiled earlier this month. But lack of awareness and knowledge could stymy their impact. Kristine Sørensen, a digital health literacy expert based in Denmark says digital health literacy varies across countries, regions - even within families. “I prefer to call it a digital spectrum,” she said.

Recent Eurostat data show that people are increasingly turning to the internet to seek health information online in Europe. But the rates are uneven. In Finland, 80% of adults sought information about their health online last year; in Germany just 45%. A 2021 WHO report found that over the past seven years, despite a slight upwards bump during the pandemic, health literacy in Germany had actually declined.

Birgit Bauer is a patient expert and health communication specialist in Germany, who will speak at a panel on patient empowerment and digital health ecosystems at HIMSS22 Europe in Finland next month. Many older Germans are hesitant about digital tools, and sometimes do not even have WiFi. But healthy younger people don’t see a need for it either, she said. “When you come to say, digital health, a lot of them say, ‘I’m healthy. I don’t need that.’ So they are maybe not so interested in it.”

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