On December 7th, the European Commission unveiled its most recent action plan to address barriers to the full use of digital solutions in Europe’s healthcare systems.Its goal: to improve healthcare for the benefit of patients, give patients more control of their care and bring down costs.
A significant market
The global telemedicine market grew from $9.8 billion in 2010 to $11.6 billion in 2011, while the global mHealth market is set to grow to €17.5 billion a year by 2017. Some EU governments are spending up to 15% of their budgets on healthcare. According to the EHealth action plan 2012-2020: FAQ document a 2010 survey of public, private and university hospitals in Europe showed that
- 81% have one or more electronic patient records systems in place, but only 4% grant patients online access to their health information.
- 71% use online eBooking systems for patients’ appointments with medical staff but only 8% offer patients the opportunity to book their own hospital appointment online.
- 43% of hospitals surveyed exchange radiology reports electronically. However, only 30% use ePrescription for medicines, 8% telemonitor patients at home, 5% have some form of electronic exchange of clinical care information with healthcare providers in other EU countries.
Change management: eHealth network?
With these modest adoption rates, it is no surprise then that while patients and health professionals are enthusiastically using telehealth solutions and have downloaded smartphone apps to keep track of their health and wellbeing, digital healthcare has yet to reap its great potential to improve healthcare and generate efficiency savings. The gap between policy and implementation needs a team of facilitators within the system to manage change.
Enter the eHealth network. It was set up under Article 14 of Directive 2011/24 on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. The network brings together the national authorities responsible for eHealth from all the Member States on a voluntary basis to work on common orientations for eHealth. The network is mandated to produce EU guidelines on eHealth, including a set of patients’ data to be exchanged across borders, identification and authentication measures used in healthcare, and interoperability of e-prescriptions.
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