We have just replied to the consultation on the European Commission's eHealth Action plan for 2012-2020. In our response, I worked closely with colleagues in our new department focusing only on ehealth solutions. Telefónica has been active in this field for many years now, and has participated in many pilots and case studies. There is a video on our work in Malaga:
We also have some case studies on mobile telecare, tele-rehabilitation, and on the remote management of chronic diseases.
On this topic, we received this from Álvaro Fernández de Araoz, Director of Business Development in Telemedicine for Telefonica:
“For the past few weeks I’ve been following the reports that have been published related to the impulse the European Union wants to give to eHealth. The debate was launched by the Hungarian Presidency as a declaration at the last Ministerial Conference held from 10 to 12 May in Budapest. The proposal concerned the right of European citizens to receive healthcare in another Member State and to have resources such as telemedicine and telemonitoring.
The Declaration urges Member States to implement directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights to cross-border healthcare, which includes a section related to eHealth. The European Commission, which wants to launch an Action Plan on eHealth 2012-2020 before the end of 2011, has welcomed the initiative and has asked Member States to support and facilitate the development of telemedicine systems with clear economic and social impact.
What benefits would eHealth provide to citizens?
A benefit that has been demonstrated has been remote disease management in cases such as diabetes and reduced hospitalization in patients with heart failure. In Spain, for example, chronic diseases take up 80% of health spending.
In this sense, telemedicine services are a friendly way for both the healthcare professional and the patient to move into a model which is more focused on prevention and self-care, with greater access to information and is more sustainable.
Also, the development of innovative tools designed to enable integrated health services will provide clear savings in time, more efficient processes and increased productivity for healthcare professionals. And all of this with the commitment to manage responsibly collected health data from patients.
Therefore, the development of eHealth improves health and promotes independent living for citizens through consultation and care telematics.
What benefits can eHealth bring to the States?
The statement also mentioned that eHealth and specifically telemedicine can have a positive impact on the future challenges that will face European countries due to the aging of society and the chronicity of diseases. We need to keep in mind that two thirds of rising healthcare costs are due to their increased prevalence.
The development of eHealth services in Europe could lead to significant savings in medical costs. Savings are estimated to reach 16% of GDP by 2020 in the EU countries.
This cost reduction has already materialized in the use of technology applied to healthcare management. Currently, in Spain, the use of ICT is saving the Social Security almost €91 million every year, according to the Ministry of Social Security.
The same is expected with eHealth. Health expenditure could be reduced considerably without a decline in the quality of service. On the contrary, it would mean a significant improvement in health care and the efficiency of services, which would result in better treatments for patients and improved quality of life.”
What do you think about the potential for ehealth? Which other obstacles do you see blocking the way forward?