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Evidence Based Guidelines for Nursing and Social Care on eHealth Services: Advanced Roles

The increasing and changing health needs of citizens of the European Union (EU) have led to member states considering new ways of organizing and delivering health and social care. Within a context of tighter health budgets and rising demands for high quality and safe care, advanced roles for nurses and social workers are required to make best use of the resources available and enhance quality. eHealth is the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in services and processes, combined with new skills, to improve the health and wellbeing of all citizens and efficiently deliver person-centered, coordinated health and social care to those with complex needs. eHealth is not a substitute for face to face contact with professionals that citizens require at times of crisis or during acute phases of their illness. However, it has the potential to radically enhance the exchange of information between citizens and those concerned with their treatment and support and ensure that changing requirements are speedily addressed.

Whilst nurses, social workers and other care professionals across Europe already possess well-developed core skills and share values, there is a wide variation in the organisation and management of services and the advanced roles that professionals are increasingly required to undertake in different countries. Examples of these for both nurses and social workers include those that arise from the need to work in interdisciplinary teams, assess people’s requirements holistically and commission and coordinate complex packages of care. The practice of nurse prescribing which has been successfully developed in a number of countries, clearly requires advanced skills for nurses as do the statutory responsibilities of social workers to carry many jurisdictions for the protection of children and vulnerable adults from abuse.

eHealth plays a key role in supporting the introduction and development of the new skills required to carry out advanced roles. Principle amongst these are Information Prescribing to promote informed choice and Shared Decision Making (SDM), and those required to devise and arrange Social Prescriptions when it is appropriate to offer a citizen the option of assistance to change their lifestyle as an alternative to medication or other clinical intervention. Examples of Social Prescriptions include assistance to join an exercise or other club or a smoking or alcohol cessation support group. Such forms of assistance can be of particular benefit to people whose problems stem from social isolation or other circumstances affecting their mental health (OPM 2013).

This document outlines evidence-based guidelines that can inform policy-makers, health professionals, social workers, citizens and industry in the deployment of eHealth services at EU level. These guidelines are based on identified best practice examples collected through the ENS4Care network and as such are rooted in the daily practice experience of nurses and social workers from countries across the EU.