E-health becomes priority for Europe

A telemedicine pilot in the UK is proving the potential of technology to boost healthcare, resulting in a 45% drop in death rates, the European Commission’s digital agenda vice president claims.

Neelie Kroes says the UK’s Whole System Demonstrator scheme cut tariff costs 8%, the number of days patients spent in hospital beds 14%, and reduced emergency admissions 20%, through a combination of tele-health and –care. The digital agenda Commissioner says the scheme proves e-health technology deployments, which she believes are critical to revamping Europe’s healthcare systems.

Smart innovation and ICT can “keep people out of hospitals,” and “remove the walls of paperwork that separate doctors and carers from patients,” Kroes told delegates at the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing conference yesterday. She added that the only remaining barriers to e-health programs are the “culture, organisation, legal frameworks, reimbursement and so on.”

Kroes called on national governments and healthcare institutions to seize the day for telemedicine to stave off the rising costs of a “demographic challenge,” in the region over the long term. “We can’t solve this challenge by thinking small, by cutting a few corners here and tinkering with a few budgets,” she cautioned, adding. “We need a whole new way of operating, to turn this into an opportunity, to turn costs into investments.”