Digitalisation of Healthcare and the Problem of Digital Exclusion

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Purpose: Digitalisation of healthcare in Poland which covers e-prescriptions, e-referrals, and sharing electronic medical records (EMR) on the P1 platform3 is supposed to be fully completed and implemented from 1 January 2021. The success of that implementation is strictly connected to the level of digital skills of both healthcare providers and healthcare service users. The purpose of the present paper is to indicate potential problems which may arise from the digitalisation of healthcare in social groups which are not adapted to using information and communication technologies (ICT) in their day-to-day lives, especially in case of the elderly.

Methodology: In order to indicate a potentially high level of digital exclusion in society, secondary data collected by Eurostat, Statistics Poland and CBOS4 were used. Problems in the healthcare sector, including those resulting from the digitalisation implemented in Poland, were presented against the backdrop of the changing law which applies here.

Findings: The introduction of digital solutions in the healthcare sector in Poland, including EMR, e-referrals, and e-prescriptions, was postponed numerous times, which can indicate the lack of the proper preparation of providers for a digital revolution. However, a potentially greater problem may lie with healthcare service users, especially considering the fact that such services are used mostly by the elderly. The phenomenon of digital exclusion, generally associated with the lack of skills necessary for using ICT, is frequently observed particularly among senior citizens. It can lead to social isolation which is a risk factor that influences the health of senior citizens and the quality of their lives.

Originality/value: Some of the issues resulting from the adopted solutions and the legislation governing healthcare in Poland, including the digitalisation of said healthcare, and proposals for amendments in this regard were provided in this interdisciplinary paper. It seems that those solutions could be used to reduce the threats of the digital exclusion of a significant part of Polish society, particularly in the group of seniors.

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