Currently, only one in 25 EU hospitals grants patients online access to their medical data, as shown by a comparative study on the deployment of eH-health services in the EU. The study was published on 10 May following an EU task force meeting on e-health services. These events were organised on the margins of 2011 eHealth Week in Budapest, Hungary, on 10-12 May.
"Existing evidence suggests that by increasing the use of telemedicine and tele-monitoring solutions we could cut by up to 10% the hospitalisation of chronic heart failure patients, reduce the use of health care resources by diabetes patients by as much as 10% [...]. Now is the time to set targets and timelines to achieve them and agree on indicators for monitoring and measurement," said Commissioner Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda), opening a conference in Budapest.
According to a study carried out in 906 EU hospitals, telemedicine has yet to achieve its full potential in the EU. Indeed, while 90% of hospitals have broadband internet connections, onlya8% telemonitor patients at home. Similarly,a39% use videoconferencing for consultations with external specialists and only 5% have some form of electronic exchange of clinical care information with health care providers in other EU countries. Some 30% use e-prescription for medicines and 8% offer patients the opportunity to book their own hospital appointment online. The least developed service is access to medical records: only 4% of hospitals grant patients online access to their electronic patient record.
EXCLUSIVE NATIONAL COMPETENCE
Deploying information and communication technologies (ITC) in health care remains an area of exclusive national competence. Eagerly awaited, the new Directive 2011/24/EU on cross-border health care offers relatively little scope for action by the Commission - relegated to supporting and facilitating cooperation and exchange of information between member states within the framework of a network built on a voluntary basis.
Nevertheless, within the limits of its competence, the Commission established an e-health task force, which met for the first time in Budapest, on 10 May. This high-level group's function is to make proposals for safer, improved and more efficient health care services in the EU - namely in terms of diagnostics, prevention and treatment. During its meetings, the task force will give particular consideration to the issue of attaining interoperability throughout the EU for all health care and associated technology. The task force will also dedicate its attention to the links between e-health, telemedicine and initiatives in terms of social policy.
eHealth Week, which is the result of a collaboration between the Commission's high-level ministerial conference and the World of Health IT conference and exhibition, should also lead to new potential solutions. This year, the focus is on e-health in a time of austerity.
"Keynote speakers [...] will emphasise on the role of technology in shaping up health systems of the future. They will discuss how to push information out into the eco-system': finding ways to move data from solely within the hospital out into the community, and from the GP's office, or even the home, to the electronic medical record (EMR)", said Jeremy Bonfini, executive vice-president for global services at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
The study is available at ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/item-detail-dae.cfm?item_id=6952