Everyone has the right to digital care

10 June 2024

The Dutch foundation Helpdesk Digitale Zorg is there for everyone who has questions about a Personal Health Environment (PGO) or other e-health applications. Merlijne Sonneveld (48), founder and director of the helpdesk, agrees. “Patience and especially understanding are essential when you really want to help someone. And understanding for the fact that not everyone can just do something. Because people can be very capable in all kinds of areas, but sometimes we have made the systems so complicated that it is not easy to understand.”

Sonneveld believes that everyone has the right to digital care access. “Whether you decide to use it is up to you and your healthcare provider. Digitization brings so many wonderful things with it. But there are people who are not involved with that digitization on a daily basis and need help. We want to close that gap.”

In general, people often think that the group that contacts the helpdesk mainly consists of the elderly and low-skilled people. But the group is much broader, Sonneveld knows. “Highly educated people and people who are normally digitally skilled also come to us. There are many other factors involved. Things like stress about a result, jargon in a PGO or fears about your own health. All factors that can play a role in consulting and using a PGO.”

Diverse questions

The Digital Care Helpdesk helps thousands of people per week and the number continues to rise. Some of them concern questions about PGOs or linking PGOs. In addition, there are many questions about other e-health applications.

“In general, you can divide the types of questions we receive into two categories,” Sonneveld indicates. “Sometimes people are uncertain and are not yet open to what they see in the PGO. Then, they are primarily looking for social help, someone who looks, thinks and a listens with them. Once they know that there is someone who can help them, they are more open to the possibilities that a PGO or other e-health application offers.”

The other category concerns the technical aspects. E.g., when they have trouble logging in, if certain checkboxes are not checked or if there is a problem with an update or an authorization. Sonneveld: “We regularly receive questions about the pairing code via text message. Particularly when someone tries to log in for someone else, such as a caregiver, and they are unable to do so.”

Digitization, an everyday matter

The Digital Care Helpdesk works together with other organisations as much as possible. Digitization is an everyday matter, Sonneveld notes, but not yet accessible or understandable for everyone. “People can already go to many hospitals and libraries to become more digitally skilled. But that can be improved. I see this as a social task. Fortunately, a lot of things are going well, and I am very happy that we remain well connected together with the Dutch Patients Association, the MedMij Foundation and all our partners.”

Sonneveld believes it is essential that not everyone reinvents the wheel. “We can learn a lot from each other, and we should be proud of that. Invest in your people and work together. Learn from each other, because digital care is not very different in one region than in another. What I see is that by working together we know more and more about the user. This way we can better respond to the needs of the user.”

Read the full article in ICT&health 3, which will be published on June 14.