The world is undergoing a digital revolution that is transforming our societies and economies at an unprecedented rate. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the challenges and inequalities in the delivery of healthcare and has rushed the health sector towards sudden digitalisation. The implementation of effective and broader digital health services has helped to overcome access barriers in healthcare systems during the pandemic.

But are patients and their needs taken into consideration in this digitalisation process?

EFA’s DIG_IT European survey, report and country factsheets

In 2021, EFA launched DIG_IT, a project aimed at understanding how digitalisation has impacted patients’ access to healthcare, diagnosis, treatment and supporting management of their conditions. During the summer, EFA interviewed 970 patients in 5 countries (506 with asthma and 464 COPD), asking 50 questions on the themes of 1) access to healthcare by digital means, 2) digital solutions for diagnosis, 3) digital solutions for treatment, 4) digital solutions for care, 5) health data and privacy, 6) barriers and drivers to digitalisation, and 7) the impact of COVID 19 pandemic on patients' habits in the use of digital solutions.

The results are a breakthrough which provide a clear picture of asthma and COPD patients’ digital health use and needs. EFA prepared a survey report to communicate the results and conducted several workshops with EFA Members to come up with policy recommendations stemming from the evidence gathered. The report, expected for the first half of 2022, will be EFA’s main positioning and advocacy tool to inform policymakers, healthcare professionals, industry and academia that will shape the future European Health Data Space regulation and its application.

Given that the DIG_IT survey was conducted in five European countries representative of the European regions, EFA prepared five country factsheets based on local results to facilitate the dissemination of the report at national level. The factsheets, expected for the first half of 2022, developed in consultation with EFA’s national Members and will serve patient organisations to develop their advocacy strategy to educate and influence local policymakers on the digital needs and expectations of respiratory patients.

The Charter of Asthma and COPD Digital Care

DIG_IT findings also informed the drafting of an EFA Charter for Asthma and COPD Digital care that enumerates patient principles for the design and use of digital health technologies for their diseases. The Charter, expected for the first half of 2022, proposes patient-centred criteria for the professionals and industry involved in digital health development. It will be a solid tool for European patients to request patient participation from the early stages of digital health solutions design.

The main findings were presented in September 2021 during the European Lung Foundation’s Patients Day, a networking event that gathers every year the respiratory patient community.


[EFA Programme Manager Valeria Ramiconi presents DIG_IT survey preliminary results during the European Respiratory Society Congress Patients Day]

Thank you to EFA's Sustainable Funding Partners Astra Zeneca, Chiesi, MSD, OM Pharma, Roche for their unrestricted grants on this project.