By 2025, 30 per cent of EU citizens should use health and care services provided online, following the example of Estonia and Finland where almost 50 per cent of citizens take advantage of such services online. In 2018 for the EU, this figure was a meagre 18 per cent.
It is key for the EU to invest in digital tools and equipment to modernize and secure its health systems. Spending on software, databases and ICT services in healthcare has been modest for far too long compared to other sectors. This must change quickly if we want to achieve long-term sustainability, security, accessibility, and resilience in our health systems.
Digitalising hospitals – for instance, by moving to a digital documentation system and integrating data into it – is crucial to enable a systemic approach to mitigate cross-border health threats to the Union. This must go hand in hand with a digital skill programme targeted at healthcare professionals and with appropriate investments in digital equipment for medical facilities. Up to 70 per cent of health professionals report not using digital solutions due to gaps in knowledge and skills in data analytics. The future viability of our health systems will also need digital-savvy doctors, nurses and clinical staff in general.
Strengthening telehealth is also vital to ensure that everyone – especially those in rural areas, vulnerable groups, and the elderly – can benefit from continuity of care, even in times of pandemics and lockdowns.
New technologies – such as AI – will also play an important role in improving diagnostics and treatment. New excellence centres across the EU should partner with healthcare actors to test AI solutions in real operational environments.