E-Health is a term used to describe ICT-enabled services that can offer help in the diagnosis and management of many medical conditions such as heart failure. It exploits modern information and communications techniques to bring a range of high quality services to patients, regardless of location and proximity to hospital facilities. This particularly applies to cardiovascular disease, for which E-Health technologies can help reduce unnecessary hospitalisations and may ensure more rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Commenting before the meeting, Mr. Sterckx and Ms. McAvan said, “We estimate that cardiovascular disease in Europe costs our healthcare systems a staggering €200 billion per year. Because the impact of the ageing population can only increase this, we have to find innovative, sustainable and cost-effective solutions to the treatment of such conditions. E-Health offers great potential to do so, and this is the reason why the MEP Heart Group is gathering evidence from experts at its meeting today.”
In her presentation, Ms Maria Iglesia-Gomez of the European Commission (EC) will emphasise that E-Health is a key component of the innovation plan at the centre of the EC’s Europe 2020 strategy to meet the needs of its ageing population. Professor Martin Cowie of the UK’s Royal Brompton Hospital is presenting a summary of successful Tele-cardiology projects. His view is that E-Health offers enormous benefits to both patients and cardiologists.
“We have certainly seen a number of really interesting developments that emphasise its value as an integral part of treatment strategies”, he notes. “Remote monitoring can empower patients to self-care much more effectively, and reassures them that they have daily access to expertise from their own homes that can help them live longer and better lives.”
Medical professionals and policy makers alike understand how E-Health can help solve a number of fundamental problems, including:
Mr László Bencze, Health Attaché for the Hungarian Presidency, will tell MEPs that E-Health is a central theme of the healthcare policy established by his country during its Presidency. This will be debated in more detail at a ministerial conference due to be held in May in Budapest, which is expected to have a specific focus on the application of E-Health solutions to chronic diseases.
Great progress has been made in demonstrating the overall proof-of-concept of E-Health and a number of innovative programmes are in place in many EU countries. Despite this, however, significant obstacles remain before E-Health can be adopted as a mainstream process. In his presentation to the meeting, Doctor Friedrich Köhler, Professor of Telemedicine at Charité-Universitâtsmedizin in Berlin will warn that those obstacles cannot be ignored.
“E-Health will only happen when adequate investment is made available, yet we are living in an era of reduced spend on healthcare,” he said. “Successful delivery of E-Health needs an extensive – and expensive – broadband network characterised by high security and resilience. We must also establish EU-wide training for healthcare professionals, correctly manage patient expectations, ensure data protection and confidentiality, and quickly introduce new processes for procurement and standards.”
Conclusion:The MEP Heart Group will emphasise its belief in the potential of E-Health. For this reason, it will underline the need to provide funding to continue research into studies of long-term benefits, the adoption of standards, technical interoperability, and preventive and predictive care.