EFN: celebrating nurses and discussing the importance of digital healthcare

nurse
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The European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN) met at the European Parliament to discuss the hard work achieved by nurses and the impact of digital technology across the healthcare industry

The united voice of three million EU nurses and six million European nurses, organised on 5 February 2020 a high-level meeting at the European Parliament to celebrate nurses across the globe through a Nurses Now event and the future of digital healthcare.

The Nursing Now campaign focuses on raising the status and profile of nursing globally, and on maximising the contribution that the nursing profession makes to the Universal Health Coverage. “Nursing is not only a European but a global force for good” explained Elizabeth Adams, EFN President.

Paul De Raeve, EFN Secretary-General, took these ideas further to explain how digitalisation is positively transforming the health ecosystems, together with the nursing workforce and MEP Maria Manuel Leitão, reminded the attendees that Health is not an EU policy yet – but she believes that it will be soon.

MEP Nicolás González Casares, who has 18 years of experience as an emergency nurse, explained to the audience how Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing and in whose honour 2020 has been declared “WHO 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” was also the first statistician who started collecting and analysing patient’s data.

Today, there are many health innovations that are based on data as well, the reason for which he thinks we should advocate for a common European Data Space. However, Casares also said that “we can digitalise health data, but we cannot digitalise the human side of nursing.”

Thibaut Kleiner, from the European Commission’s (EC) DG Connect, explained how one of the drivers of innovation is in fact budget as without money being available, innovation cannot be developed nor applied. Hence, he gave great importance to the two upcoming EU research funds – Horizon Europe and Digital Europe.

Digital Europe, Kleiner explained, will focus on upscaling and deploying research that is already out there, ensuring that it does have an impact for the end-user.

Digital healthcare across the board

The other topic for discussion was the digitalisation of healthcare, and more concretely, nurses’ contribution as end-users to new tools such as Electronic Health Records.

Marc Lange from EHTEL presented the InteropEHRate project, a similar H2020 project developing an interoperable and shareable Electronic Health Record and Ricardo Gonçalves, project coordinator from UNINOVA, introduced Smart4Health, developing an online health platform together with a system of cross-operable Electronic Health Records.

Gonçalves said: “Smart4Health will enable citizens to manage and bridge their own health data throughout the EU and beyond, advancing own and societal health and wellbeing.”

Blockchain in healthcare

These presentations were followed by Marc Taverner, INATBA’s CEO, who reinforced the importance of adding an extra layer of security to these developments by using blockchain ledger technology. EFN is a member of INATBA.

Jacqueline Bowman-Busato, Policy Lead of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), elaborated further on what these two projects are doing so greatly: fostering co-creation with end-users, to ensure right deployment and impact.

All sessions were actively engaged by MEPs, Commission representatives of DG research and DG Connect, Industry/SMEs and Civil Society, all reinforcing the importance of fostering end-user co-design in digital health, especially the frontline nurses.

Latest work to guide future agenda

The EFN Executive Committee Members shared the latest policy work of the EFN on the digital agenda, the European Pillar of Social Rights, Quality & Safety and Workforce policy initiatives at the EU level. However, the focus of attention went to the importance of fostering nurses’ end-user co-designing role in EU policies. It became clear how successful nurses are in developing evidence-based EU policies, benefitting the people within the EU and Europe.

Florence Nightingale: the healthcare pioneer

Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, ENRF Founding Director, talked about Florence Nightingale and her work, and on how it is still driving today’s nursing. During her passionate speech, the audience was engaged on how Nightingale, other than a nurse, was a great statistician, a political activist, a feminist, and a person who changed forever the mindset of healthcare professionals at her time.

Support from Mr Usman Khan, from the European Patients Forum, was clear as he took the opportunity to remember that nurses are the healthcare profession trusted by patients the most, as they are 24/7 with them at the bedside.

The meeting was closed by Elizabeth Adams, who thanked everyone for their participation and encouraged all to not only celebrate 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, but think and act long-term, taking into account the nurses’ frontline voice in the co-creation processes of policies, of procedures, of standards, of tools, and of whatever that supports citizens’ health.

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