ECRA member Laura Maaß:

"Compared to other countries, Germany lags behind in the use of digital interventions within its national health care system."

Digital solutions in healthcare can help improve patient safety, health outcomes and disease prevention. To enable the use of these interventions, countries must create a legal and technological framework. Compared to other countries, Germany lags behind in the use of digital interventions within its national health care system. The goal of this project is therefore to develop an index for digital public health. This index will compare the state of the art of digitization in health care in European countries.

First, a systematic literature search will provide an overview of digital public health technologies and applications used worldwide. In a second step, indicators for information and communication technology and for a legal and ethical framework for the use of digital technologies in public health will be selected for the European countries. These three areas will be combined in the final index. A quantitative online survey will analyze the degree of implementation and use of digital technologies. The index will allow benchmarking and policy learning in the field of digital public health. This will help European countries to improve their health systems by learning from other nations' experiences in the areas of implementation, use and evaluation of digital technologies in health care.

Electronic health records, telemedicine, electronic prescriptions, health information portals or prescribed apps are examples of technologies and applications that can be provided by governments in national health systems. The transition to a digital healthcare system offers the opportunity for sustainable, efficient and safer healthcare. At the same time, it could enable higher quality services and better access to medical care for people in need. It is interesting to note that the adaptation of digital technologies and applications in health care varies greatly from country to country. While some nations (e.g. Denmark and Sweden) have already implemented various technologies in their healthcare systems, other nations such as Germany hardly use digital public health technologies (DiPHT) at the national level. Over the next three years, I will examine the current situation in all European countries with more than 500,000 inhabitants. For this purpose I will develop a digital public health index. This index will examine both the framework conditions for the provision and the specific use of DiPHT in European health systems.

Research plan

The index will consist of three different sub-indices. All three are self-contained systems, but they are all mutually dependent. The first subindex deals with the technological framework conditions that must be guaranteed for the use of DiPHT. Quantitative indicators are proposed by the OECD, the World Bank and the EU. They include the share of households with access to broadband connections, investments in information and communication technology (ICT) or the share of areas with 4G / 5G network access in the total area of the country. These indicators are to be collected by evaluating country reports. The second sub-index focuses on the legal and ethical framework that should regulate the use of DiPHT. This includes regulations for the exchange of patient data between physicians, guidelines for the use of data by third parties and security measures to protect the privacy of patients. These indicators will be answered in a quantitative online survey by experts from the respective nations. Finally, the third sub-index refers to the use of DiPHT in the health care systems of the countries included. In addition to specific technologies such as electronic patient record / referral / prescription or the use of telemedicine, this includes the existence of a strategy for digitizing the health care system as well as government co-financing of the implementation and use of DiPHT. Like the second sub-index, this third set of indicators should be answered in an online survey by experts from politics and science.

The overall index will be able to express the level of maturity of digital public health in European health systems. This will allow benchmarking and policy learning between countries. Due to the 'transparency of the Index', other countries not included in the study will also be able to determine their own score and determine their own potential. In this way, countries' health systems will be able to develop into more sustainable and efficient systems

Laura Maaß, M.A. Public Health
Universität Bremen
SOCIUM Forschungszentrum für Ungleichheit und Sozialpolitik
Abteilung: Gesundheit, Langzeitpflege und Renten
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3, Raum 3.4200
28359 Bremen, Deutschland
Tel.: +49 (0)421 218-58610
Websites: Socium

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