Towards a digital health roadmap for the WHO European Region

How can countries in the region design and invest in digital innovations that strengthen health systems to achieve better health for all? More than 300 decision-makers, policy experts and researchers from 50 countries gathered at the WHO Symposium on the Future of Digital Health Systems on 6–8 February 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss the way forward.

Digital health can improve the reach, impact and efficiency of health care. It can help improve the training of the health workforce, strengthen public health surveillance, and provide health services to remote and underserved populations. Furthermore, it can also empower patients to take control of their health, and aid in the transition from reactive treatment to proactive prevention of diseases.

However, barriers remain to adopting digital tools. These are among others the allocation of finance for the development of digital health services and the securing that these systems are not only equipped to use technology but are also trusting.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab identified that these challenges also present immense opportunities. She noted: “It is time to accelerate action to build the future of digital health systems in Europe, and increased public health engagement in its adoption is vital.”

Experts at the event highlighted that the governance of digital health systems requires urgent attention, and that credibility and public trust are essential to realizing the full potential of digital health. New standards and regulatory approaches are needed to ensure security and transparency as well as to ensure that the misuse of technologies is prevented so that patients are confident in the use of their data..

The need to invest in bold, innovative and far-reaching partnerships between state actors; with patients, communities and youth; with international partners, academics and researchers; and with the private sector was a recurring theme throughout the Symposium.

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