eHealth could solve healthcare's biggest challenges

A leading expert has urged member states to take advantage of a "new wave" of technological innovation in health systems.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 Jun 2016

Jeroen Tas, of Dutch electronics giant Philips, says this could "solve" some of the biggest challenges facing health care and also present "huge" economic opportunities.

But this will only be possible if current "communication gaps" in healthcare are addressed, he warned.

His message was timed to coincide with eHealth Week, which runs from 8 to 10 June.


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Speaking to this website, Tas pointed to the findings of the 2016 'Futurehealth Index', which highlights existing shortcomings in health systems.

Some 70 per cent of patients surveyed for the index thought they could "self-manage" their health, for example, taking their medication on time and knowing the right things to eat.

This compared, however, with just 40 per cent of health providers who agreed.

Tas said, "Technology is making it easier for patients to track their health indicators and a majority of patients surveyed felt they have the tools to manage their own health.

"However, less than half of healthcare professionals agreed."

Tas, CEO of Connected Care and Health Informatics at Philips, said, "This is an example of just one of the gaps that need to be addressed."

Another key finding to emerge from the 70-page index, he said, was that 54 per cent of patients and 43 per cent of providers thought bureaucracy was seen as a "major" stumbling block to the further coordination of healthcare in their country.

The Dutchman, who will give a keynote speech at an eHealth Week debate in Amsterdam on Wednesday, called for a "serious debate" about the future of healthcare.

He pointed out that, currently, 80 per cent of health expenditure in the EU goes on tackling chronic diseases and, with an ever rising elderly population, this is set to rise even higher.

Healthcare currently revolves around acute care but the focus, he argues, should be more on providing the "tools" to allow patients to "self-manage", or monitor, their own health.

Such tools, he says, might include a combination of medical devices and apps targeting health information for patients.

This, he said, could lead to a cut in hospitalisation rates and few emergency admissions.

Tas, who will speak at a session on "European trends in human-centric connected care", said, "What is missing from the debate is the importance of early intervention programmes for managing health."

He added, "Digital health and the new wave of technological innovation can open up great opportunities but it needs to be done at scale."

 

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