Just press enter: challenges and opportunities in creating a digitally literate healthcare workforce

Posted on: 02.03.2017 Tags:

Digital Health


eHealth Week

Technology has transformed the healthcare environment

The use of language in healthcare is quickly evolving with the influence of technology. The concept of digital healthcare literacy was not part of past curriculum whether it was at an institute of higher learning or workforce development in the healthcare arena. There is a knowledge gap in healthcare technology for legacy employees. There has been a massive growth in educational opportunities globally with accredited institutions producing baccalaureate degree’s in health innovation, online masters of nursing informatics programs and PhD curriculums in health informatics to bridge the gap in digital healthcare literacy.

The European Union on digital health literacy

The European Union published a document to address the issues of digital health literacy for its citizens in 2014, “Over three-quarters of people feel that the Internet is a good tool for improving their knowledge of health topics” (European citizens’ digital health literacy, p.76, 2014). In Spain, a local university is addressing the digital health literacy by creating an innovative master degree in ehealth. A local pediatric hospital in Barcelona created an educational department with partnerships at educational institution dedicated to training legacy workforce, graduate students, and interns using technology and evidence-based practice to bridge the digital health literacy divide. In Marseilles, France, the École des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP) offers a post-masters in health management with the goal of graduates to work with not-for-profit organizations, become consultants or project managers. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Italy UPMC Italy designed “e-learning educational programs for patients and clinicians”, creating an opportunity for patients and the clinical workforce to share the same level of digital health literacy.

Informal education to bridge the divide

There are informal opportunities to connect and engage to elevate health literacy by volunteering and connecting with local health IT societies:

-          The Personal Connected Health Alliance, and FFPACIENTE a Spanish nursing group that partners with patients and clinicians with newsletters, tweet chats and blog posts to elevate all participants in health literacy with the collaboration of the La Asociación de Enfermería Comunitaria (association of nursing community in Spain).

-          The government of Health Ministry of Malta educate their citizens on how to access care and defines the workforce roles using natural language and postgraduate medical trainees are encouraged to study abroad to continue their education.

Globally, technology is becoming part of healthcare, the European Union, institutions of higher learning as well as employers are moving the workforce in the direction of digital health literacy. The ultimate goal for the clinical workforce is to become competent in digital health to collaborate with peers, communicate with patients. In other words: bridging the gap. At eHealth Week in Malta we will continue building this bridge! 

Danielle Siarri, MSN, RN

Nurse Informatics Specialist and Health IT Advisor for Ammende.info, France/Canada/USA