Digitalisation in Health: more than a technological change


The post-pandemic economic agenda is focused on the opportunities that might arise from NextGenerationEU funds. These are aimed at driving the transformation of production organisations and of services, with the goal of gaining competitiveness and efficiency. Moreover, the funds should be used to improve the quality and accessibility of public services, increasing the decision-making capacity of the citizens. The health sector can be one of the great beneficiaries of this digitalisation in health process financed from Europe. 

But after the theory, comes the practice. And unless the strategies to deal with the incorporation of technologies into organisations change, this will produce only partial results. And in some cases these results will be far removed from the European Commission’s desire to drive profound changes in organisations.

The new approach of digitalisation, the digital transition, must necessarily include an analysis of the impact on the organisation and the measures that need to change to make the process effective. Replacing the typewriter with word processors was not a process of organisational change, only the tool, keyboard, and document file were modified. If we focus on health care systems, the implementation of electronic records has maintained registry supports based on word processors, incorporating, it’s true, significant advances in the shared management of clinical information and processes.

The digital transition in health requires much more than a technological change; it must be a process that introduces substantial changes in organisations so that the information produced in the course of health care activities can be exploited to its fullest. This is a complex process, which needs to have the patient as its focus. Without organisational and cultural changes, or if in fact it is left to the large technological giants, it will fail. 

Digitalisation in Health: Change in organisations 

Going into detail, in the process leading from clinical history to structured data, it is necessary for the information to be incorporated into the systems in a way that is coherent and has protocols. This is essential to be able to extract all the necessary reports, working on the combination of different variables from each process. All of this, of course, without undermining the need to leave space for subjective annotations. But these structured processes will open the way for the generation of diagnostic and therapeutic algorithms and, ultimately, for personalised medicine and predictive medicine.

This implies a change in the way professionals work, structuring the gathering of information in an organised way according to determined criteria and always at the health professional’s discretion. This requires the creation of consensual spaces and new leadership in health care attention and its organisation.  

The digital transition and digitalisation in health will thus be a matter for the health care professionals and also for managers, who will have to promote the changes. But not just for them. Health care has two recipients, the citizen and society itself. Therefore both must also be protagonists in the organisational change and in what is offered and consumed within health care services.