“We need to bring older people along on the digital wave that is sweeping the Nordic Region, so that everyone enjoys equal access to online doctors and other e-health and welfare services,” says Eva Lindh, spokesperson for the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region, after its September meeting. In recent years, the use of e-health services has increased in several Nordic countries, especially in sparsely populated areas, where digital options represent a welcome addition to in-person consultations with a doctor.
It is a matter of equal access for all
The Committee believes that it is important to map how these new options affect the national health services. It will proceed with a recommendation to the Nordic Council of Ministers at the next Session that it produces an overview of e-health services with a focus on both positive and negative consequences – including equal access for all. The proposal was originally submitted by the Social Democratic Group on the Nordic Council.
We need to bring older people along on the digital wave that is sweeping the Nordic Region, so that everyone enjoys equal opportunities for access to online doctors and other e-health and welfare services
Older people without digital skills risk ending up at the back of the queue
Lindh’s words and the recommendation are backed by clear data proving that older people, in particular, find the new technology difficult and that other poorly educated and low-income groups are also lagging behind. The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare’s report “The Condition and Development of Health Care in 2020” concludes that an alarmingly low 4% of 66–75-year-olds use the “online doctor app”. The corresponding figure for the 75+ age group is even lower, at 3%. In other words, e-health services represent a challenge to the principle of prioritising those in greatest need.
“Older people without digital skills risk ending up at the back of the queue,” Lindh points out.
Health care personnel are the key to success
Fortunately, help and inspiration are already out there, as the committee found at today’s meeting with Eva Franzén, director of the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues, and Andreas Lundqvist and Niclas Forsling from the Centre for Rural Medicine in Sweden. Funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, these two organisations and Nordregio ran the prioritisation project: Healthcare and care at distance 2018–2020 launched by the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018 – which included the publication of the report “Digital Health Care and Social Care”.
“Insights from this work show us that health professionals’ own digital skills, as well as their ability to pass them on to digitally challenged patients and their relatives, play a decisive role,” Forsling explains.