The rise of digital health technologies during the pandemic

Τhere is no doubt that digital technologies have played a crucial part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancer nurses and healthcare professionals had to adapt quickly to the new reality using telemedicine to work remotely, patients logging in their symptoms into specially developed apps to assess the likelihood of infection or even use contact tracing apps to eliminate the spread of the virus. Even though digital health technologies are not new, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly accelerated their use. Since the beginning of the pandemic 58% of countries have been using telemedicine to reduce face-to-face consultations. Artificial intelligence solutions are already in use to help healthcare services with the increased demand and the limited resources, supporting scientific research, personalised medicine, early diagnosis of diseases such as cancer and adjusting cancer treatments.

Nevertheless, there are many challenges to overcome as advances in digitalisation of healthcare come with drawbacks. Some of the barriers include a widening ‘digital divide’ that risks leaving behind the elderly and socially disadvantaged, who are less able to master or afford the technology. In addition, liability, reimbursement and cyber security issues are among the other key challenges that need to be considered, as cyber-attacks on hospitals are on the rise. Meanwhile, the transfer of personal health data is fuelling a debate over who owns and controls that data, raising questions about individuals’ rights to privacy. What is clear is that digital health is here to stay.
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