Director of Policy, European Patients’ Forum
What are the impacts of the digital technology on the health care system from a patients’ perspective?
I can say that this is actually something we have not studied in depth yet, but it is really coming, since, clearly, it could be very transformative. If it means, that patients would have a greater range of accessible services in terms of leaving your home or not to get medical advice it is a very good thing, because most patients don’t want to go to the hospital if they don’t have to. They prefer to get advice close at home and I can imagine that it can be helpful as mentioned for carers of older people and parents and so on. It has a lot of potential, however, I am not sure in real life how much it will manifest.
Are the devices effective or do we need more evidence and research on these symbioses of the digital era and patients care system?
From the discussion we have had so far with the patients, they have mainly concerns with for examples apps and trust issues, to which extend you can trust the quality of smart devices. Secondly, they are concerned by the enormous range of products. Even if you go to a European catalogue of apps, there are hundreds apps, so it is very difficult for a patient to find the right one for someone’s personal needs, since every patient and every person is individual. So this tools are not so individually tailored. Thus, it makes it quite difficult to navigate these products. And as we talked about the information, it is very difficult to judge if the information you find online is really worth trusting or not.
Do you think the patients are more satisfied since the introduction of digital support systems in hospital settings or interventions such as telephone service lines?
I have heard from many of our organizations which represent people with chronic and acute conditions and the takeoff of these e-health and m-health tools is not as high as you would expect. Although they are supposed to support the patient for example adhere to their medication and so on, they are not as popular as you would expect. Some of the reasons we have heard are that they are not so useful in terms of meeting the patients’ needs, meaning there might be a problem in the design or the users were probably not consulted in the process. Furthermore, some other system issues might have occurred.
This leads us to the last question: Which are the unintended consequences of these technologies for the patients?
Unintended could be the equity gap if this is not addressed. And I think it needs to have special attention, whenever this kind of services is introduced, the policy makers and the service provider always need to answer the question: Can we reach all the people in order to provide free access and are there probably some groups which need this service more than others and what do we do to reach them. So we have to be careful not to create that unintentional divide. For the professional it might be unintended that patients are becoming much more actionable and they come to see the doctor already with an idea what’s wrong with them. Thus, the medical profession has to adjust and doctors need to develop different skills to guide people through this information and to make shared decisions with patients. This could be very challenging indeed.
Thank you very much.
This interviewed was conducted at the EHFG Conference 2016 by the Young Gasteiner Jose Correia Lemos Pavao