Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting Nicola Sturgeon
, the Scottish Deputy First Minister responsible for Health and Wellbeing. We discussed the great importance of investing in ICT solutions so people can stay active and healthy for longer, and to promote eHealth – something where Scotland is a forerunner in Europe.
Did you know that Scotland, with just 5 million people, has already deployed telecare and telehealth to more than 40.000 citizens
? Indeed, the investments they've made - around £16 million (c. €20m) in the period 2006-2010 - have already delivered health benefits and economic efficiencies worth nearly three times that. That shows that investing in ICT for health really pays off.
Of course, the next step is to go mainstream. In Scotland, they are doing that by both investing £10 million more in eHealth
(= c. €12m), as well as by setting up superfast broadband, even in the most rural areas of the Highlands, to raise participation rates.
These really are tremendous results. And I think everyone in Europe should benefit from them
. So I am encouraging and stimulating these kinds of initiatives. In the coming months the Commission will be inviting all those who have a stake in this work – like the technology industry, healthcare experts, financing providers and the public sector - to commit to some very clear actions in the context of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Health Ageing
Plus, to ensure all parts of Europe are involved, I want to get regions from across the EU together—to meet, to exchange their experiences on ICT-enabled care services
and to discuss how to collaborate further on making technology work for the healthcare sector. (The first event for this will take place on the 3rd
of April: I'll keep you posted on that via my blog.)
So, I believe, together we can make the transition towards more active and healthy ageing
. Scotland is already making great progress. But at the same time, we should keep our eyes on the road, because there are challenges ahead: in particular, financing, measuring health and economic impacts, and effectively integrating new technologies
into existing healthcare environments. Healthcare providers, and the elderly themselves, must also feel the real benefits of the technology for quality of life, effectiveness of treatment and the impact of their work. So we should not underestimate the need for education, awareness-raising and smart user-friendly product design.
I am fully committed to tackling these challenges as much as I can. But I need help. With joint commitment and political attention from national governments
it should be possible to deploy integrated care services at a European scale. Let's make it happen!