Digital health is already a reality, but do citizens know that?

Digital health services, accessible via web or app, are already present in many regions but are often unknown to most of the citizens for whom they were designed.

Since these services are designed for citizens to facilitate accessing health services, it is essential for citizens to be aware of their existence and to understand the benefits they offer.

In the development of digital health services and apps, great attention is paid to technical aspects, privacy, graphics and usability, but little consideration is given to how to promote them. Often the promotion is limited to a conference or a press release on local newspapers that, however, get little resonance from the real users of the service. Communication is often self-referential and fails to reach the target, the citizens.

Many insiders complain about the low spread of apps and the low number of accesses to digital services, below expectations. In fact, the downloads and evaluations of Apple and Google stores of these apps are very few compared to the potential catchment area and the usefulness of the services offered.

Just to give an example, the Lazio portal, which shows the situation in real time of all the emergency rooms in the region, is known by a few people. In my personal experience almost all the friends, acquaintances and students (resident in Lazio) of my courses ignore its existence, yet it is a very useful service.

In order to overcome this situation, which can frustrate the efforts and investments made by the health sector to simplify services access and use, it is necessary to pay close attention to their promotion and the involvement of citizens. We need a strategy, a specific budget and the choice of effective communication channels.

It should be noted that, unfortunately, the traditional media, first and foremost the local newspapers, have a limited audience. Much more effective are the studies of family doctors, pharmacies, where you can post flyers and promote services, perhaps with the active collaboration of doctors and pharmacists.

Social media can also be effective channels, provided, however, that we invest in highlighting the promotion of services. Supermarkets, shopping malls or places where there is a large influx of people can be valuable showcases to let citizens know what has been done for them.

In short, when creating an app or a digital service, communication and promotion must be considered in the overall budget with the right weight. Creating an app or a digital service is not difficult; it is much more difficult to make sure that it is used and that it is therefore really useful for citizens.

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