Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Together we can – talking e-Health with Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon & I

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 (EIP AHA). 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!


  • I really agree with this blogpost, telehealth can enrich so many lives, and save the health service millions of pounds. It can also greatly reduce the carbon footprint of many people. It is very rare a consultant has to actually touch someone. If they can see you in high definition on your tv set and the patient can see them then that is as good a consultation as you can get. Many remote monitoring gadgets are available, and this frees up resources for those who have to be physically in a health establishment. The potential is limitless. The only problem is that those who need it most don't have access to  a fit for purpose internet connection. As long as we try to patch up the old phone network we remain in the digital dark age. Bring on the fibre. Moral and optic. chris
  • Great blog. In my country, the Netherlands, we can and should learn a lot from the Scotland experiences and approach. As we all should look 'out of our national, regional and institutional boxes' to learn and build on the experiences from others.  
  • The figure quoted of 40,000 would look to relate to those additional services funded through the Scottish Government initiatives from 2006 - great news. As telecare and pendant alarms have been well established in Scotland long before 2006, I would imagine that the overall figure of people benefiting is much higher because of local council and housing services funding. Are any more detailed breakdowns available for pendant alarms/telecare, telehealth, video consultations that reflect overall progress? Mike Clark Twitter: @clarkmike
  • True, as the Brits monitor their streets (so you can't kiss your girl on the street without a camera watching) they can also automatically detect when you collapse on the streets. eHealth is a lobby phrase for taking "public money" and giving it to Microsoft. And it only means that.
  • What exactly is "Telecare" supposed to provide?  Is it another one of those extended warranties on a TV?  Makes no sense to me. But then again the job that Nelly has is a non-job and makes no sense to me either.  As for Scotland they can provide all kinds of services off the backs of the English taxpayer.  I do so hope they vote for independence in 2014 as that will set England on the road to recovery.

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