The innovations of eHealth bring patients and doctors closer, making care available even in the most remote areas. This combination of traditional health and ICT tools make it possible to highly increase the chances of better prevention, treatment and control of diseases. I consider that this specific sector of health represents a step forward in dealing with the struggles of modern health systems by increasing their efficiency in a way that we could only imagine a few years ago. Developed and implemented according to members' states individual needs, eHealth has far-reaching benefits for both patients and medical personnel.
We are dealing with an ageing population, with numerous chronic diseases, with poverty and diminished access to health services, treatments and medication, increased mobility of people, and not the least with the negative impact of the economic crisis on our health budgets.
eHealth makes it possible to bring care and treatment closer to the homes of patients. Among the many eHealth benefits, there are the real-time monitoring of a patient, more affordable medical services in the long run, as well as the gathering and communicating of patient data that leads to a better and faster diagnosis wherever the patient is. Not to mention the added value of the opportunity to have a multidisciplinary approach to a patient's condition by investigating the human body as a single complex system.
"eHealth makes it possible to bring care and treatment closer to the homes of patients"
ICT and health tools create better prepared practitioners who have the possibility to constantly update and exchange data and best practices among themselves for the benefit of medicine and society. The growing market of ICT not only has the potential to boost the European economy, but, correlated with health, brings us closer to our aim of universal access to healthcare.
At this moment, the eHealth market is very fragmented. We have lots of data gathered by individual organisations that need to be structured. For this to happen, it is necessary that we have standardised and interoperable healthcare systems in the EU. Once data protection rules are in place and healthcare providers and all stakeholders decide to cooperate, there will be a smooth operation of eHealth tools. The commission is the most appropriate actor to take a leading role in establishing standards and a much needed interoperability framework for eHealth in the EU.
As S&D shadow for the eHealth action plan, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the political groups in parliament had a similar, positive approach towards eHealth. The S&D amendments focused on the need for member states to facilitate tailored access to IT tools and training for all sectors of the population, including the elderly and the less able, in order to avoid exacerbating social inequalities. mHealth was a central element of the amendments due to its potential; it was required that applications for mobile devices for patients to be developed under the appropriate medical scrutiny. The commission was required to come forward with an 'mHealth action plan' that would provide for guidelines on market surveillance of such applications and would ensure data protection and the reliability of the health information provided. Other amendments required the use of EU structural funds and other financial support to establish eHealth infrastructure, actions to help closing the digital gap between different regions and a sharing of good practices between stakeholders in eHealth. eHealth brings us one step closer to efficient healthcare systems in the EU.