The growth in the use of digital healthcare tools by care providers stabilised in 2023. This was mainly because most care providers were already using particular digital tools in 2022, such as the patient portal – on which patients can view the outcomes of examinations – and e-consultations (digital written contact with doctors). These are among the findings in RIVM’s annual report on digital care. The number of patients using digital healthcare tools rose slightly.

RIVM has been tracking developments in digital healthcare in the Netherlands annually since 2020, in partnership with Nivel and Leiden University Medical Center’s National eHealth Living Lab.

Use of some digital tools increased significantly

While overall growth of digital healthcare stabilised, 2023 saw a significant increase in the use of some tools, such as devices that remotely inform patients what medication they should take when, as well as devices that monitor patients at home, such a motion sensors. By taking over some of their workload, these devices enable nurses to spend more time on other care duties.

Not a solution to major problems

Most care providers, and nurses in particular, are positive about digital care. At the same time, however, healthcare workers do not believe that it provides a solution to all the problems in healthcare. They feel that digital healthcare only makes a limited contribution to curbing the costs of care, reducing the workload and increasing work enjoyment. In general, physicians are slightly less positive about digital care, although this varies greatly between different groups of physicians. Opinions among care users are also divided. People with chronic conditions in particular often have a more negative view of digital care.

Added value needs to be personally experienced

Care providers feel that digital healthcare needs to be integrated into their overall care duties better. Ultimately, when it becomes more part of their day-to-day work, it will be possible to have some of their duties taken over by digital healthcare tools, boosting their work enjoyment, but at the start of implementing a new digital tool, digital healthcare actually increases their workload. In addition, both care providers and patients feel that they will need to experience personally that it has added value for them. Furthermore, it is important that digital healthcare is user-friendly for patients and it needs to be clear how digital healthcare is reimbursed.

Aligning digital healthcare with the social environment

In addition to tracking developments, RIVM also conducts an in-depth study each year. In 2023, RIVM looked into how people with an increased/elevated risk of type 2 diabetes (prediabetics) and people whose cancer treatment has been completed can use digital healthcare tools. They reported to be willing to monitor their health themselves and they were positive about the addition of digital self-management applications to regular care. However, these groups do need support from people close to them, such as family and friends, with things like following the recommendations provided in an app. Furthermore, the applications need to be free of charge or covered by health insurance.

More help with choosing digital applications

Both groups in the in-depth study also stated that they would appreciate it if their care provider helped them with choosing digital applications. For prediabetics, for example, such a broad range of lifestyle applications is available that they do not know what to choose. By contrast, people who have completed cancer treatment often do not know of the existence of digital applications for post-treatment care and where to find them. It is important that care providers pay more attention to this and that they have time to provide this support.

RIVM publishes these reports on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. Care providers, developers of digital tools and policymakers can use the findings to improve digital healthcare.