In February 2019, the WHO Symposium on the Future of Digital Health Systems in the European Region informed the development of priorities for public health action to accelerate the digital transformation and to help to develop a European roadmap for the digitalisation of national health systems. The symposium discussed many aspects of the topic of digital transformation, such as governance and leadership for the future of digital health; interoperability and data exchange; Artificial Intelligence and machine learning; the impact of digitalisation on health inequalities; how digital health can support integrated care; and using data for decision-making.  

The main takeaways from the symposium were the following (1): 

  • To ensure that no one is left behind in the digital transformation of health services, it must be framed in the guiding principles of universal health coverage and linked with public health, health promotion, and disease prevention goals;
  • The barriers to digital transformation are often linked to people and not to technologies;
  • Health authorities must facilitate credibility and public trust in digital health services;
  • Health authorities must collaborate with all sectors to preserve the safety, privacy, health and well-being of populations; 
  • Interoperability is key in this transformation.  

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, there has been a substantial increase in demand for digital health services and technologies, and they have been deployed in unprecedented ways to manage the pandemic and support the provision of other essential care services. Many of the challenges around the topic have been bypassed or addressed to urgently implement digital services, but the concerns and questions remain at local, national, and European levels. 

At EHMA 2021, leading experts in the digital transformation of health services will present an overview of the situation in Europe, discuss the lessons learned, and highlight the opportunities for health managers to continue leading the transformation of their health systems. 

1. WHO Regional Office for Europe. Future of digital health systems: report on the WHO symposium on the future of digital health systems in the European Region (Copenhagen, Denmark, 6–8 February 2019). World Health Organization; 2019 Sep.