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

This guideline is a component of the ENS4Care Thematic Network and focuses on how nurses and social workers can use technology in a cost-effective way to enhance their practice, empower and educate patients and the public in the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The overall aim of the Network is to make up-to-date and effective eHealth guidance available to health and social care staff and those using their services in accessible formats and foster continuity and quality of care as well as patient safety across all EU Member States and the EEA.

This eHealth guidance places up-to-date information at the fingertips of citizens, carers and professionals and encourages the development of expanded roles for health and social care professionals such as Information and Social Prescribing; it notes that a change in lifestyle may be offered rather than 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 citizens whose problems stem from social isolation or other circumstances affecting their mental health.

Supporting the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) based solutions by nurses and social workers is a central objective of this project. The pervasive use and impact of technology can be harnessed at every level to contribute to the prevention agenda and reduce health inequalities. There are increasing numbers of technological innovations including tools and apps that can be used by individual professionals and the public to motivate behaviour change and assess and monitor progress in various health dimensions. There are also systems and products that can be used at organisation level as well as locally, regionally or nationally as part of a clinical pathway or integrated care system. This guideline refers to examples of practices submitted as part of the ENS4Care data collection but focuses particularly on the use of one tool, HeartAge, which it uses as an exemplar to highlight the issues to be considered by nurses and social workers in choosing and using the rapidly expanding range of eHealth technologies. This includes clarification of the purpose of the tool and the context in which it may be used, as well as the organisational and educational requirements in order to maximise the value for people receiving a service.

As more of these tools are introduced into practice, either by professionals or the public, it is important that nurses and social workers have sufficient understanding of the evidence base underpinning the tools to ensure that they are selected and used appropriately, and that they have the knowledge and skills to add value in their use with citizens. With the right knowledge, skills and support nurses, social workers and citizens alike can use eHealth technologies to achieve transformational advances in health promotion and disease prevention.