Older and vulnerable individuals could be left behind as healthcare and data move increasingly online.
European Union countries are not doing enough to help patients learn more about accessing and understanding health information digitally, a World Health Organization (WHO) survey suggests.
It shows that fewer than half of EU countries had digital education and inclusion plans to support people in understanding complex health information online.
The WHO survey also highlights a changing landscape in healthcare as patients increasingly access sensitive data using digital platforms and apps, a transition that expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the WHO urged European countries to help older and vulnerable individuals access health information so that some citizens are not left behind as health information moves increasingly online.
“It is a sad irony that people with limited or no digital skills are often the ones who stand to gain the most from digital health tools and interventions – like older persons or rural communities,” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO’s Regional Director for Europe.
“Access to digital health tools is only useful if you know how to use them,” he added at a press conference.
The international agency highlighted multiple measures to improve access to digital inclusion including literacy training, access to broadband, improving access to data, and help for the elderly.
In Leeds, UK, public libraries allow free digital access and help for individuals to learn to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) app to improve health information literacy, the report said.
“We are concerned that under half (of WHO Europe countries) have a focus on digital health literacy,” Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, WHO Europe’s Director of the Division of Country Health Policies and Systems, told Euronews Next.
“Why? For the simple fact that in healthcare, the bulk of our users tend to be older