The second meeting of the European Commission’s Health Policy Platform Thematic Network on “Profiling and training the health care workers of the future” took place on Wednesday 13 May 2020 via webinar. The event was organised by Health First Europe and EHMA, as coordinators of the EUHPP Thematic Network dedicated to “Profiling and training the health care workers of the future”. The meeting aimed at discussing how to prepare health care professionals to face the digitalisation of care and enhance digital leadership as well as innovation readiness. During the discussion, two case studies on digital skills and digital readiness in health care settings were presented.
Health workforce education and training are essential to developing skills and competences for the provision of integrated care, especially for those patients coping with multiple chronic conditions. Digital solutions have a great role to play in ensuring continuity of care, provided that health care professionals are trained for their use as well as involved in identifying the most effective digital tools. Investing in digital skills and in healthcare workers education in digital tools (from electronic health records to AI solutions) ultimately results in providing the best quality of care for patients while speeding administrative processes, diagnosis and making the delivery of care more efficient and effective.
On digital skills, David Farrell, from Health Education England, explained the importance of digital readiness for healthcare workers to quickly adapt to new technologies and support the healthcare systems to embrace digital solution for care. Digital readiness cannot be unilateral, it needs to be fostered by a wide range of stakeholders, from clinicians to health managers, to patients. Access to innovation and digital technologies should also be granted without excluding minorities, providing equal access to digital technologies in order to make the digital environment easy and safe to navigate.
Mr Farrell presented the case study of the NHS Digital Academy, conducted through Imperial College London, a learning programme in digital health leadership for mid to senior-level workers aiming at enhancing digital skills significantly.
This programme brings innovative solutions for stakeholders to adopt digital leadership skills to be applied in healthcare systems and beyond by:
- Providing a framework for digital development and awareness for board level leaders to help them to better understand new technologies
- Ensuring the understanding of the needs of the current digital workforce and foresee the needs for the future digital workforce
- Supporting digital skills with an assessment framework (staff development, change of mentality for health mangers)
The project funded by Health Education England which aims at embracing “Digital Readiness”, building a digital ready workforce and embracing new technologies to boost digital leadership, and empower patients. The case study resulted in the following policy recommendations:
Embrace a digital change in healthcare management
- Promote a culture of open discussion amongst patients and health care professional and open research
- Embrace digital literacy to empower health workforce as well as patients
- Promote cross-border non-hierarchical health systems
- Boost fast, integrated, and light organisational processes
- Compare and assess the risks against the benefits of digitalisation
- Foster scalable, interoperable, fixable, resilient, and fit-for-purpose technology
- Foster multidisciplinary collaboration, innovative attitudes and team learning
The second case study was presented by Trine Ungermann Fredskild (Denmark), and it was focused on the Digital & Innovation Skills Helix in Health (DISH) project.
This project is funded by Erasmus+ programme and it addresses the digital skills’ gap of the healthcare workforce by establishing a triple helix partnership consisting of healthcare providers, educational institutions and enterprise, representing 6 countries (Spain, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Poland and Norway). The project aims at identifying new approaches to support citizens (patients and healthcare professionals) in the use of new technology and at preparing health care professionals to the ongoing digitalisation of care. The Dish project focuses on three areas: innovation readiness, digital leadership, and literacy. The project’s training sessions are horizontal and involve both management and staff, encouraging them to reflect upon:
How to take offset in real clinical needs?
- How to lead the change?
- How to change the workflows?
- How to be involved in the process?
- What do they expect from the training sessions?
- How to follow up after the training sessions?
All the concepts will be tested in the 6 participating countries, and once completed, a general assessment would be carried including good practices learned from each country. These recommendations could also be transferred to other countries’ health care systems.
The case study resulted in the following policy recommendations:
- Promote a secure use of digital technology
- Encourage training and brainstorming technological participation
- Promote an ethical use of technology, valuing patients’ insights in the implementation of digital solutions
During the open debate, Aneta Tyszkiewicz (Council of European Dentists) stressed that European universities should foster a harmonised digital curriculum to benefit and prepare students for their future. She acknowledged the digital gap of the European dentist students, (revealed by recent surveys on digital technologies applied to dental care). Digital skills need to be part of the ongoing learning path of health professionals. In the case of dentists, where many are self-employed, a low-cost additional incentive needs to be in place in order to guarantee their access to digital literacy. On digital skills’ gap, Sara Roda (Standing Committee of European Doctors) further stressed the role of digital and AI literacy to foster trust in new technologies and the importance to concretely define the scope of primary and secondary use of data.
Closing remarks came from Karoline Kristensen (European Commission), who acknowledged support and cooperation was needed between a wide range of different stakeholders, across private and public sector, in order to foster healthcare workforce’s digital skills. In this regard, The Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) is closely working with the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) to ensure digital training is present in Universities curricula across Europe. The European Commission is also committed to keep on mapping the digital gaps in European health systems as well as identify essential digital skills in support of EU member states.
The outcome of this debate, as well as of the following webinars, will be included the Thematic Network joint statement, aiming at profiling the healthcare workers of the future and identifying their core competencies and role for promoting data-driven innovation and patient-centred and inter-disciplinary models of care.