Welcome to the future: home monitoring systems, e-health records and contacts lenses that check glucose levels!
Experts in eHealth gathered in The Square, Brussels, on the 30th of November 2011 to discuss how innovative technologies can be applied to health. The conversation focused on ways of harnessing innovation to deliver better services more efficiently and in a way that benefits patients, payers and policymakers.
Contributions from European Commissioner for Health, John Dalli and leading health MEP Antonyia Parvanova, along with EU officials, major industry players, innovation-focussed SMEs and patient representatives offered valuable insights. The focus was on where we are now, where we could go and how we can tackle barriers to optimal uptake of high-tech solutions to Europe's health challenges.
The event, organised by sponsored by Microsoft, looked at how telemedicine, electronic health records, eHealth technologies and cloud-based services can deliver services to an ageing population. Some of the solutions discussed gave cause for serious
optimism, and also touched upon how to work further to overcome some of the
challenges: interoperability, data protection, and
buy-in from patients and health professionals.
What role for cloud computing in health service delivery? And what barriers must be overcome?
European policymakers see cloud computing as an opportunity to deliver better services as well as a potential source of new high-end jobs. However, concerns were raised about privacy and data safety. An interesting discussion emerged at the conference - and on Twitter - on security issues around electronic health records (EHR). Commissioner Dalli highlighted the obvious efficiencies associated with making data securely accessible by each of the health professionals treating a patient - even if they are in separate clinics. Long-standing concerns about guaranteeing the safety of this data were also aired, although some participants noted that paper-based health records are not 100% secure.
How can health technologies drive growth and what can policymakers do?
The barriers to a Europe-wide e-Health revolution include lack of interoperability between and within health systems. However, as US Ambassador WIlliam E. Kennard told the audience, agreeing on standards in the area of health technologies could pave the way for major expansion in what is seen as a high-growth industry of the future.
Representatives from Denmark and Cyprus - countries due to take up the rotating European Council Presidency in 2012 - both committed to keeping innovation in health on the EU political agenda in the year ahead. With the newly-published Horizon 2020 strategy earmarking €32 for 'societal challenges, including health and demographic challenges, policymakers would appear to be broadly pulling in the same direction.