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European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. European Observatory Policy Briefs ; 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1668445


Digital health tools hold the potential to improve the efficiency, accessibility and quality of care. Before the pandemic, efforts had been made to support implementation across Europe over many years, but widespread adoption in practice had been difficult and slow. The greatest barriers to adoption of digital health tools were not primarily technical in nature, but instead lay in successfully facilitating the required individual, organizational and system changes. During the COVID-19 pandemic many digital health tools moved from being viewed as a potential opportunity to becoming an immediate necessity, and their use increased substantially. Digital health tools have been used during the pandemic to support four main areas: communication and information, including tackling misinformation;surveillance and monitoring;the continuing provision of health care such as through remote consultations;and the rollout and monitoring of vaccination programmes. Greater use of digital health tools during the pandemic has been facilitated by: policy changes to regulation and reimbursement;investment in technical infrastructure;and training for health professionals. As the pandemic comes under control, if health systems are to retain added value from greater use of digital health tools, active strategies are needed now to build on the current momentum around their use. Areas to consider while developing such strategies include: Ensuring clear system-level frameworks and reimbursement regimes for the use of digital health tools, while allowing scope for co-design of digital health solutions by patients and health professionals for specific uses. Combining local flexibility with monitoring and evaluation to learn lessons and ensure that digital health tools help to meet wider health system goals.

European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. European Observatory Policy Briefs ; 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1196319


COVID-19 can cause persistent ill-health. Around a quarter of people who have had the virus experience symptoms that continue for at least a month but one in 10 are still unwell after 12 weeks. This has been described by patient groups as "Long COVID". Our understanding of how to diagnose and manage Long COVID is still evolving but the condition can be very debilitating. It is associated with a range of overlapping symptoms including generalized chest and muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction, and the mechanisms involved affect multiple system and include persisting inflammation, thrombosis, and autoimmunity. It can affect anyone, but women and health care workers seem to be at greater risk. Long COVID has a serious impact on people's ability to go back to work or have a social life. It affects their mental health and may have significant economic consequences for them, their families and for society. Policy responses need to take account of the complexity of Long COVID and how what is known about it is evolving rapidly. Areas to address include: The need for multidisciplinary, multispecialty approaches to assessment and management;Development, in association with patients and their families, of new care pathways and contextually appropriate guidelines for health professionals, especially in primary care to enable case management to be tailored to the manifestations of disease and involvement of different organ systems;The creation of appropriate services, including rehabilitation and online support tools;Action to tackle the wider consequences of Long COVID, including attention to employment rights, sick pay policies, and access to benefit and disability benefit packages;Involving patients both to foster self-care and self-help and in shaping awareness of Long COVID and the service (and research) needs it generates;and Implementing well-functioning patient registers and other surveillance systems;creating cohorts of patients;and following up those affected as a means to support the research which is so critical to understanding and treating Long COVID.

Eurohealth ; 26(2):51-57, 2020.
Article in English | GIM | ID: covidwho-942067


Finding ways to increase the surge capacity and flexibility of the health workforce has been fundamental to delivering an effective COVID-19 response. This article explores the strategies that 44 countries in Europe plus Canada have taken to maintain and increase the availability of health workers using data from the COVID-19 Health System and Response Monitor. We show that all countries have used a variety of strategies to repurpose and mobilise the existing health workforce, while some have also augmented capacity by utilising foreign-trained or previously retired or inactive health professionals, medical and nursing students and volunteers.