By Maria Iglesia Gomez - 26th April 2013
[eHealth] provide initiatives and tools to contribute to making healthcare better and more responsive, while enabling people to become more active participants in the care and services they receive
Maria Iglesia Gomez
By taking a collaborative approach to healthcare, Europe can achieve a better quality of life for its citizens, create new jobs and boost growth, writes Maria Iglesia Gomez
As a consequence of Europe-wide low birth rates and increased longevity rates over the next two decades, the number of Europeans aged over 65 is expected to rise by 30 per cent from 87 million in 2010 to 124 million in 2030. The progressive shift towards an older population more likely to develop chronic illnesses and demanding more care and advanced treatment, puts pressure on social and healthcare budgets, already scarce in the current negative fiscal environment. In order to mitigate the age-related challenges, the European commission seeks to support cost-effective and innovative ways to make care systems sustainable and responding to the needs of older people. One of the commission’s initiatives is the European innovation partnership on active and healthy ageing that mobilises multiple stakeholders in putting forward innovative solutions to the needs of ageing societies.
Proper adherence to medical plans and treatment, falls prevention, more personalised patient centred care, independent living or the possibility to carry out regular check-ups from home are some of older people’s needs developing chronic conditions. Either complex or simple, these demands are all potential candidates for innovative solutions. This is where eHealth comes into play. It can provide initiatives and tools to contribute to making healthcare better and more responsive, while enabling people to become more active participants in the care and services they receive.
Within the partnership, stakeholders are encouraged to take advantage of existing potential in ICT that can support modernisation and transformation of the delivery of care and services in response to current challenges and care needs. For example, the partnership promotes initiatives to make it easier for older people to liaise with their doctors online, to access and interact with their health records electronically. The use of eHealth also helps inform and support people in their own homes to better manage and maintain their health, better control ill-health, thus enabling the latter live more independently and complying with their often complex medication regimens.
It should be noted that eHealth can succeed if it is used as a facilitator rather than a tool to achieve the partnership’s aims. It can indeed help improve quality, safety and effectiveness of care making systems more sustainable and efficient. According to the UK findings from the preliminary evaluation of their large scale demonstration project released in 2012, tele-health and telecare services, if used smartly and correctly, can reduce hospitalisation admissions by up to 20 per cent as well as a significant decrease in mortality rates up to 45 per cent.
On the basis of the potential of eHealth and its benefits for all, the partnership seeks to make a substantial contribution to the process of development and deployment of its solutions for citizens across Europe. By working in an EU-wide partnership based on collaborative innovation, the committed stakeholders can mobilise new approaches such as large scale procurement of innovative solutions for older people. This will benefit not only our health and care systems by increasing their efficiency, but also lead to better quality of life for citizens and not least, as well as create new growth and job opportunities for Europe, which can take a global lead in this process.Maria Iglesia Gomez is head of the innovation for health and consumers unit at the European commission's DG Sanco