Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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eHealth week - digital innovation isn't just for the young!

This week in Dublin it has been eHealth week. A chance to look at all the great things digital technology can do for health and care – especially as the average European gets older.

It can be things as simple as a smartphone app helping you take control of your own healthcare (I have a little gadget on my wrist that counts my steps for my exercise regime). Or it can be whole ICT-enabled living environments that make life easier and safer for the elderly or infirm, without costing them their independence.  And it's great to see some of the new ideas we're coming up with here in Europe, and how we can put them into practice to benefit all our citizens. First, I helped launch the eHealth Week itself. It's a pleasure to see that Irish Ministers are giving this issue the political attention it deserves. It's clearly something that matters to the Irish government: both as a country confronting its own health challenges, and as Council Presidency spreading this message to Europe. While I was there I got a catch-up on our European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. One of the groups directly involved showed me some of their 37 good practices they've been collecting for integrated care. Those good practices are already bringing "real life" solutions that help around 13 million people; further toolkits based on them could reach 20 million citizens within the next 2 years. Plus, many of the most creative eHealth innovations come from smaller companies. Our SME eHealth Competition to find the best eHealth ideas among those smaller companies, attracted an incredible 212 applications. It was a pleasure to see such a strong field – and a pleasure to reward the most innovative and talented ideas. Well done all of you! And today I spoke to AGE about other work we are doing in the field of eHealth. Too many people see an ageing population as a burden: I see it as a triumph of modern science, and a blessing for our people. It does mean we need to adapt – like to deal with longer-term and degenerative conditions that call for a different kind of care. But equally, ICT tools give us an opportunity to make that change – as long as we are able to use them to the full. One participant during our event in Dublin asked a very telling question: "Why is all the ICT used by the banks?" And that's a good question. It's true that digital tech offers a huge boost for our economy, including the financial system. But it's time we realise how much it also has to offer for our public services and our society – if we dare to innovate. Twitter hashtag: #eHW13
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