EPIS explores impact of COVID-19 on digital healthcare

By Kate Birch
European Patient Innovation Summit (EPIS) calls for improved digital health literacy, standardised digital platforms, and co-creation of digital solutio...

While the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a catalyst for digital transformation in many industries, the challenges for healthcare were even more prominent. With those challenges came opportunities, and participants at the European Patient Innovation Summit (EPIS) explored the positives and negatives of digital engagement and made recommendations on how patients can continue to benefit from digital in future.

In late 2020 and early 2021, more than 250 patient advocates, across 40 countries came together in a virtual meeting series alongside the EPIS Steering Committee.

Established in 2016, EPIS is a platform for patient advocates across Europe to discuss digital health and issues relating to the digital world and health. EPIS includes an annual event and is organised and funded by Novartis

Attendees noted that digital solutions allowed them to maintain continuity of care during the pandemic, with virtual communications and social media providing new options to communicate healthcare services. Patient organisations were able to stay connected with their members and, more importantly, patients could interact with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and gain support from family and friends.

However, EPIS participants said a lack of face-to-face interaction with HCPs caused many to feel isolated and unable to access certain services. Many patients did not understand how to use tech solutions, and some HCPs were also reluctant to embrace digital tools.

“COVID-19 may have accelerated digital engagement, but there is still so much we can do to ensure patients get the most from it,” said EPIS Steering Committee member Gilliosa Spurrier-Bernard.

“We need improved digital health literacy, seamless patient access to their own data, standardisation in digital health technologies for both patients and healthcare professionals, and digital solutions that are co-created from inception. Only then can we truly address the healthcare needs to the patient community.”

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EPIS recommendations on digital

EPIS 2020 participants voted on a series of recommendations that key stakeholders can take to ensure patients continue to benefit from digital engagement:

  • Patient Organisations – The creation of a national, digital patient platform that can be utilised in online consultations with HCPs, as well as for training and education.
  • Healthcare Professionals – Implementation of standardised digital platforms that can be used by both HCPs and patients.
  • Policy Makers – Provide a central educational tool that can be distributed to patients and HCPs. Also highlighted was the need for national, centralised telemedicine systems for virtual clinics.
  • Technology Developers – Work with patients and HCPs in the development process to co-create digital solutions. New tools must meet a specific, relevant need.
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