The Digital Transition in Healthcare: An Urgent Need


The European Association for Digital Transition is a citizens’ organisation that was founded to support, foster and accelerate initiatives for a Europe that is a technological and digital leader. To remain sovereign. To remain Europe.

Healthcare management is a key issue for the welfare of European citizens, as has been demonstrated by the coronavirus crisis. A deficient management of healthcare systems places Europe’s three sovereignties at risk:

1. Politics: because the lack of healthcare services weakens the legitimacy of governments and poses a risk to the autonomy of our nations and the European region.

2. The economy: because people’s health is key to economic development.

3. The individual: because the loss of individual health leads to fragility and increased risk of inequality.

Digitisation and the development of technologies must serve to strengthen healthcare services, improving citizen’s access to these services, aiding better clinical practice, and enabling a healthcare plan that seeks to protect the health of persons and of society as a whole.

The EATD calls on EU institutions and our national governments to be more ambitious so that technology and digitisation may reach healthcare management, urgently implementing a strategic plan that is based on citizens’ freedom of choice and prioritising individual and collective health to make Europe a space of welfare and solidarity for stronger political and economic sovereignty.

The Strategic Plan for the Digital Transition in Healthcare must include citizens’ access to information technologies and digital services so they have greater autonomy and freedom of choice. The Plan must also consolidate the rights of the new “digital patient”, ensuring the security and confidentiality of their health data at the same time that it enables the availability of anonymised data to boost scientific and technological advances for greater social development.

The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the limitations of our healthcare systems

Over the last year, healthcare services in European countries have borne the burden of the coronavirus pandemic which has translated into millions of infected persons, nearly a million deaths, and tens of thousands of individuals who will have to deal with its long-term effects for a considerable period of time.

European experts had been warning about the need to strengthen healthcare services and to make preparations to face health crises such as this one, highlighting public healthcare services and primary healthcare as the weakest points.

The health crisis has also laid bare the need for more R+D+I in the Health Sciences, as well as the need to bolster the administration of public healthcare across the European Union.

Spain is not immune to the weaknesses that have emerged throughout this crisis. On the contrary, in addition to the deficiencies in R+D+I and the shortcomings of primary and public healthcare, there have been noteworthy difficulties in the administration of the National Health System which failed to consider the development of an effective decision-making system in the event of a widespread crisis such as this one.

The need to prioritise the care of coronavirus patients has made it difficult for other patients to access healthcare services, leading to a high number of pending activities including doctors’ visits, tests, as well as surgeries that, together with the demographic evolution and increased numbers of chronic patients on one hand and climate change on the other, shall continue to affect healthcare services, thus endangering their sustainability.

Can data save lives?

We must ask ourselves this important question: Can data save lives? Would we be more efficient if we responded with a robust and reliable information system that collects all available data on each patient’s care?

In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, if detailed information had been available for each case, it would have helped to predict some of the fatal complications and thereby prevent an indefinite number of deaths. Some responses could have been easily obtained by processing structured and analysed data; researchers could have made greater progress in the search for treatments or new vaccines; the monitoring of more vulnerable residents would probably have reduced the pandemic’s impact on this population group; access to technological tools to support the care of those at greater risk would have helped us achieve better results.

The availability of structured data doesn’t just enable healthcare professionals to perform their tasks and take decisions regarding healthcare planning. A correct data structure makes care processes more efficient, it enables making diagnoses using fewer resources, it helps to select the best treatments for each person thus achieving not only the best healthcare results but also a more effective functioning of healthcare services, which in turn makes them more sustainable.

We urgently need a clear strategy that promotes digital transition in healthcare

The Digital Transition of society must include the healthcare sector, which is the generator of welfare and wealth, by providing healthcare services in member states with the tools and regulations needed to build an integrated data system, with the highest standards of inter-operability, where the individual’s right to privacy is compatible with the generation of knowledge for the development of new treatments, new diagnoses and therapies, and new healthcare products.

The Digital Transition in the health sector must learn to fill in the gaps revealed by the current crisis, strengthening the integrated vision of healthcare system, promoting citizens’ autonomy and the digital patient’s access to healthcare services. Additionally, it must help to integrate and overcome technological and administrative barriers to enhance the sustainability of the system.

The digital patient must become the engine that boosts the advances in the Digital Transition in healthcare, by exercising their digital rights and their use of healthcare services. The digital transition must be undertaken with guarantees and respect for patient privacy, thus creating confidence with regard to the use of their personal data.

The Digital Transition in healthcare must fortify European stances with regard to innovation and research in the field of healthcare, creating new spaces in which to compete with nations such as the United States that have been leaders in R+D+Ì for decades.

This is the moment in which to embark upon this process for our citizens and to strengthen the values of the European Union as an essential and necessary space for economic and social development.