European Doctors views on digital targets for health: Path to the Digital DecadeComments Off on European Doctors views on digital targets for health: Path to the Digital Decade

On 13 December 2021, the CPME adopted the CPME Feedback on the Commission’s Proposal for a Decision establishing the 2030 Policy Programme “Path to the Digital Decade”.

CPME feedback focuses on the digital targets of the Proposal, in particular on the digital skills of the population and on the digitalisation of public services.

CPME key points:

  • ‘digital skills’ are not defined in the Proposal. A definition is needed in order to measure the performance in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI).
  • European Doctors call for an appropriate balance between the (increasing intensive) use of digital technologies, and the practice of health enhancing behaviours. A health dimension should be recognised within the definition of basic digital skills, i.e. the user is aware and can understand when the digital use becomes an unhealthy behaviour (digital addiction). The health dimension should be part of the key performance indicators for attaining the first digital target.
  • CPME strongly recommends that ICT professionals abide to ethically-based codes of conduct and be subject to regulatory oversight and disciplinary sanctions. This element should be part of the key performance indicators for attaining the second digital target.
  • European Doctors advise that when implementing the digital targets on healthcare services, patient safety, quality of care, clinical independence, patient empowerment and a potential digital divide must always be considered.
  • The digitalisation must not be imposed as the only available mean to access healthcare services. Telemedicine services are a useful additional tool in a number of clinical scenarios, but it is not without risk and it is not suitable for all scenarios. Face-to-face provision of healthcare services must remain the gold standard and telemedicine services should only be implemented where evidence supports an improvement in patient safety and quality of care.
  • The tenth digital target should not justify the closure of healthcare facilities in less-populated or under-served areas. Assurances must be given that digitalisation does not add to health inequalities and that it neither places patients in disadvantage or exacerbate same (e.g., poor access to the internet, poor digital skills, physical disabilities, homelessness, the effect of ageism or just being uncomfortable to discuss health conditions in a virtual environment).
  • Moreover, it cannot exclude patients’ expectations or preference for the traditional face-to-face patient-doctor relationship. Patient empowerment needs to be considered.
  • For the eleventh digital target, assurances must be given that this does not increase health inequalities and the digital divide. Furthermore, secure and stable platforms are needed to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality, and to obtain consent from legally incapable persons, including minors. Data concerning health needs to be encrypted.