eHealth: Innovation is the best policy plan

Written by Michał Boni on 13 November 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Technology is transforming healthcare, and the EU must come up with the right regulatory framework to keep up, says Michał Boni.

Michał Boni | Photo credit: Bea Uhart


The digital transformation means people have more control over their health, despite some remaining barriers. Still, the vastly increased access to knowledge, infrastructure and innovative, personalised healthcare services could enable everyone to become an agent of their own health.

The future will set us on a very different trajectory. The global disease burden is largely vascular, with heart attacks and strokes the biggest cause of death around the world. These are largely preventable with a better understanding of risk factors. 

The hospitals of the future will become more like ‘pitstops’ or ‘brief stops’ for servicing and refuelling during the race of life. We need to really understand this change - 80 is the new 60 thanks to all the regenerative options on the horizon.


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By 2030, the very nature of disease will be further disrupted by technology. So disrupted, in fact, that we might have much fewer diseases to manage. 

The fourth industrial revolution will certainly lead to enhanced consumer health awareness and self-management, and will enable personalised treatment pathways supported by tele-healthcare and coaching.

Over the last 10 years, investments in Europe in digital technologies have been a third of what companies have invested in the US. 

To close this gap with the US, the EU would have to invest about €335bn. Investments in modern disruptive business models, advanced technologies and platforms are not at the level that they need to be. eHealth development requires a special eco-system. 

Some solutions for eHealth are related to technology advancement, and often depend on science and research development. Infrastructure for 5G deployment, GDPR implementation, ePrivacy regulation, adoption of the code of conduct on mobile health - these are all essential to build trust in our health institutions.

We need to reiterate this support for the transition from existing fragmented health and social care models towards holistic and comprehensive coordinated care.

This transition requires political leadership, sustained investment and a long-term vision at national and European level, and beyond.

Technology in the 21st century is a paradigm shift which can change from early intervention, to a much more preventative, patient-centred system with high quality results for therapies, thanks to the personalisation of treatments.

The so-called market demand in the #DigitalHealth area will be stimulated by innovative technologies, better understanding of the problems, health digital literacy, and good regulatory and non-regulatory frameworks. 

However, there is the special, additional aspect connected to the growth in demand. This demand for this new healthcare model is not coming from medical professionals, from politicians or institutions. It is coming from technology companies and, most importantly, from patients, consumers, app users and our new lifestyle.

Innovation is the best policy plan. There are a few things we still need to work on to ensure we keep up with innovative technological change - first, an enabling regulatory environment and second, funding for more research. But one thing is certain: the prognosis for the future of digital health technology involves radical change - and a lot more electricity.

 

About the author

Michał Boni (EPP, PL) is a member of Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee

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