Recent reports by the International Telecommunications Union indicate that women and older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society; they either lack access to technologies or are often not benefitting fully from the opportunities provided by technological progress. Meanwhile, as efforts to connect more people are currently under way, new risks have become apparent. For example, cybercrimes and misinformation threaten the human rights, privacy and security of older people in particular.
Pharmacists’ roles are expanding — the traditional role of the pharmacist is reliant on technology for the basics of providing prescription medicines to patients, yet many pharmacies do not use all the patient-focused technology available to them. The focus on patient care is particularly important since pharmacists do more than fill prescriptions. For example, they provide patient education, medication therapy management, medication monitoring, disease management and vaccine administration.
As pharmacists become more involved in patient care, they can better understand the needs of patients through the data available from numerous sources. The technology can also help healthcare practitioners, along with their patients, make better, more informed decisions. As one example, pharmacists can think about medication adherence and what is possible with technology to collect more data points related to an individual’s behaviour.
As digitalisation is progressively permeating all aspects of society, how can be it employed to sustain the public health goals of quality, accessibility, efficiency and equity in health care and prevention now and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic? How can we ensure self-care is as equitable as possible if it is not equitably delivered? How can we ensure older people are equitably served and included in the digital agenda?
Digital health plays a critical role in public health. The pandemic showed the importance of digital tools to support the implementation of public health interventions and the necessity to build capacity in this area to create a strong public health workforce able to respond to the present and future needs of our changing world. Across the board, pharmacy implemented several new digital services during the pandemic. Resilience of individuals and communities to prepare and respond to emergencies can be enhanced through the effective use of data and digital technologies.
Empowerment of people to lead healthier lives and prevent disease through the appropriate use of digital technologies can transform our approach to health. Technological advances offer great hope for accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, yet, one-half of the global population is off-line, with the starkest differences reflected between most and least developed countries (87% and 19% respectively).*
Our plenary discussion will take a candid look at how digital technologies have been harnessed to support the public health response to COVID-19. Panellists will critically discuss how applications have been used in population surveillance, testing, tracking and tracing, in rolling out vaccinations, etc. Panellists will be asked to reflect on the infodemic and how this has hindered an optimal global pandemic response.
* International Telecommunications Union Facts and Figures, 2020.
|09:00 – 09:15||Introduction by the co-chairs|
|09:10 – 09:40||
|Digital health as an enabler of self-care literacy: The benefits and risks to equity of self-care and the role pharmacy can play
Ms Judy Stenmark, Global Self-Care Federation, Switzerland
|09:40 – 10:10||
|Equity and ageing — The opportunities and risks of technology and digital health in support for older populations
Dr Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing, Canada
|10:10 – 10:20||
|10:20 – 10:30||
Conclusion by the co-chairs
- To describe how digitalisation has supported and protected the most vulnerable parts of our societies
- To express how digitalisation and digital tools can contribute to self-care and universal health coverage and to health literacy and empowerment
- To discuss the ways in which we risk excluding older patients and ageing societies if we do not make digital health more equitable
- To explore how pharmacy can lead the technology revolution in health care and ensure older patients and populations are not excluded from self-care and care more widely