New vision for healthcare

by Charles Wright on May 11, 2012

I know I should have stayed tucked up in bed, but this article in The Guardian by European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, about a new vision for healthcare in Europe got me thinking.

Kroes suggests that the key to financially viable healthcare systems lies more with “new approaches for telemonitoring, electronic prescriptions, and applications that help prevent people from needing acute care and allow the elderly to live independently in their homes” than with massive projects such as the UK’s National Program for IT.

He [sorry, She - I knew I should have stayed tucked up in bed] writes that many of these innovations were tested in Britain’s Whole Systems Demonstrators, and showed “huge benefits for patients, medical specialists, and care workers” while “consideably” reducing health care costs and increasing productivity”. In fact, there was a 45 per cent reduction in mortality rates and 20 per cent reduction in emergency admissions.

Kroes refers readers to a report from a new European Union eHealth Task Force, which he says confirmed those findings.

“We need to face some hard facts” she says. “In healthcare we lag at least 10 years behind virtually every other area in the implementation of IT solutions. We know how technology can positively transform our daily lives, including the ways in which we communicate, learn and do business. Yet we continue to hold back when it comes to health.

“By implementing IT solutions to preventative and continuing healthcare, we can improve the lives of everyone in need of services. Central to taking this leap forward is the need to put patients in control of their personal data – while also using anonymised data to deliver life-saving innovation.

“On a practical level, we also need to get all our systems connected and talking to each other while ensuring both transparency and accountability. And, of course, this vision can only function once internet access is a reality for all Europe’s citizens. Achieving this vision will take time and effort, but progress is being made.”

Meanwhile, the ehealth.gov.au website which I wrote about recently has now gone live. It includes the national eHealth Record Learning Centre – a new online tool to help Australians learn about the PCEHR.

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