New challenges post COVID-19: How can Digital Health increase opportunities during COVID-19?

Digital Health Solutions offer significant opportunities to reshape current health care systems. From the adoption of electronic medical records to mobile health apps and other disruptive technologies, Digital Health solutions have promised a better quality of care at a more sustainable cost. However, the wide scale adoption of these solutions is lagging behind. The most adverse setting often provide an opportunity to develop and test the capacity of Digital Health Technologies to increase the efficiency of health care systems.

Catalonia (Northeast Spain) is one of the most advanced regions in terms of eHealth adoption across Europe. The region has a long tradition of health information exchange in the public health care sector and is currently implementing an ambitious Digital Health Strategy. In this viewpoint, we discuss the crucial role digital health solutions play during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to support public health policies. We also report on the strategies currently deployed at scale during the outbreak in Catalonia.

Issues to consider

According to the study, these are the steps below must be followed:

  1. The high pressure on the health care system in a situation of extreme crisis has been an outstanding driver of change. We analyzed this new situation to facilitate the adoption of eHealth technologies within our health system.
  2. A long-term digital health strategy has proven to be the foundation for the accelerated change process. A good example of this is the unique EMR system we use in our primary health care system, which fostered the rollout of innovations faster than within a fragmented EMR ecosystem.
  3. Having a very strong community and primary health care system has allowed us to implement different ICT strategies quickly by taking advantage of close interactions with the population.
  4. ICT tools have been shown to be the main driver for decreasing health-related bureaucratic processes. This has allowed us to save professional staff time while avoiding nonessential visits by citizens to health centers and decreasing infection risks for both citizens and health care professionals.
  5. No complaints against this comprehensive ICT deployment strategy have been received or noticed from health providers or citizens.
  6. The deployment of ICT-enabled solutions should be accompanied by financial incentives for health providers in order to remove the financial barriers of adoption. Payment systems should adapt to facilitate easier ICT adoption.
  7. Closer collaboration between health and social care services will be required in the future. The pandemic outbreak has shown us that coordination between both areas (ie, nursing homes and residential care) could be greatly improved by a stronger deployment of ICT (ie, access to primary care EMRs and/or deployment of telemonitoring solutions for residents).
  8. We foresee many opportunities to further develop the virtual care model with more complex use case scenarios (ie, complex chronic needs). Current acceptance and need of ICT-enabled solutions has opened a window to further deploy the model in a system that has traditionally preferred face-to-face contact.
  9. The ICT implementation may have avoided overcrowded health centers and, in consequence, lower infection and death rates. We need to further explore the impact of these deployments.
  10. It is of outmost importance to assess how sustainable the adoption of the implemented digital health solutions on a long-term basis will be. We will continue monitoring the different implementation processes in order to assess use over time.

Continue reading the original text Turning the Crisis Into an Opportunity: Digital Health Strategies Deployed During the COVID-19 Outbreak here

Corresponding Author: Jordi Piera-Jimenez, BSc, MSc I Open Evidence Research Group I Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.


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