Can eHealth be a European lead market?

21 October 2010

Florin Lupescu, DG Information Society and Media, European Commission, said ehealth brings together technology and healthcare techniques. It will enable Member States to provide high-quality care and empower patients. It can offer secure online access to their own health data, moving care closer to the patient.

The Commission is promoting a project to draw up a minimum common set of patient data to be accessible electronically across the EU, and online medical consultations and portable devices which monitor chronic diseases will aid patient mobility.

eHealth has a huge potential to become a European lead market, so EU-wide standards, interoperability testing and certification of eHealth systems are being set up. In 2011 an eHealth Action Plan and a Directive on Patient's rights for cross-border healthcare will be launched.

John Vassallo, Vice-President for EU Affairs, Microsoft Corporation, said that while there are drawbacks with an ageing population, it could put on the pressure to create an eHealth industry that saves money and improves medical care and is a growing economic sector.

While we can link data, we need legal systems to control its use, and data must be more ‘liquid’, so existing Internet applications can speak to each other. It will be a challenge to secure data privacy and protect the individual, and while the technology is available, the legal framework needs to be strengthened.

Microsoft is moving from IT to ‘ET’: enabling technology, i.e. studying how the software can improve healthcare and save energy. If the EU wants eHealth to be a lead market, it needs to make a leap forward! he said.

Jennifer Bremner, Director of the European Health Management Association, said with an increasing older population who need healthcare, we must be more efficient, rethink long-term care and this is where eHealth can “give us more bangs for our bucks”.

Most hospitals are not the homogenous wholes, as each unit focuses on its own work. Under these circumstances transferring information between units can be complex, but eHealth makes it possible to transfer data across institutions and from health services to care systems.

While eHealth can be a significant enabler, it changes the dynamics between patients and staff, and staff have to get used to some loss of power.

The key message is that health care is in transition, and the speed of change will increase, said Ms Bremner. eHealth is fundamental to improving health care and supporting the workforce force.