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Transforming healthcare with technology - 11/05/2011

A doctor’s hand holding a stethoscope through a laptop screen © istock/Brian Jackson

Information and communications technologies help EU healthcare providers deliver better and more efficient services to patients – while reducing costs.

An ageing population, budget cuts, rising costs and staff shortages are among the major challenges facing healthcare services in the EU.

To help, the Commission is encouraging EU governments to invest more in information and communications technologies (ICT).

The Internet, secure data networks, wireless devices and online information services already help doctors, nurses and hospitals deliver better and more efficient services to patients – while reducing costs.

Big benefits

Some of the most successful ICT applications are on display this week in Budapest, Hungary, as part of the EU’s eHealth Week 2011.

For example, Denmark’s health data network provides fast and efficient communication between patients, doctors and social care workers. The streamlined services have already led to cumulative savings of €1.4bn.

In the UK, an online service and telephone helpline helped cut unnecessary doctor’s appointments by 2.4 million and reduced ambulance journeys and visits to emergency rooms by 1.2 million in 2008.

In Italy’s Lombardy region, telecardiology – which allows cardiologists to remotely assess patients with heart problems – led to a 36% decrease in hospital readmissions and a 12% reduction in outpatient visits.

Serving patients

ICT allows doctors to access patients’ medical records more easily, get laboratory test results faster, and send prescriptions directly to pharmacists.

An EU-funded study in the Netherlands, UK and Germany shows that introducing home telemonitoring support could boost patient survival rates by 15%, and reduce the number of days patients spend in hospital by 26%.

Digital agenda

The Commission is currently developing targeted measures aimed at fostering widespread adoption of ICT across the EU. An online public consultation on how best to proceed runs until 25 May.

The opinions will feed into proposals for 2012-2020 that the Commission plans to present this year. Promoting information technology for health services is part of the EU’s digital agenda and innovation union policies.

More on ICT in healthcare

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