eHealth is a relatively new addition to the Digital Age, but already it is changing the face of our medical system. As part of the seven priority areas of the Digital Agenda for Europe, eHealth has been devised to enable patients and doctors to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to maintain and improve healthcare.
|eHealth in the Digital Age|
Facilitating access to healthcare, regardless of location, means doctors now have better access to the medical records of patients. Crucially, this enables immediate access to test results from the laboratory, and prescriptions can be delivered directly to pharmacists.
eHealth has also changed the lives of many, particularly those suffering with chronic disease or disability, as they can benefit from services such as online medical consultation and portable devices that can monitor their health. People suffering from heart problems can carry monitors which alert their doctors if their condition changes, but still continue to live a normal life.
But if that wasn't innovative enough, eHealth has introduced telemedicine, which has proved to be a lifesaver for those living in isolated communities unable to reach ICT means access to clinical healthcare from a distance, and potentially saving lives.
In practical terms, the use of eHealth could minimise the risk of medical errors and help the early detection of health problems. It has been estimated that home telemonitoring of heart patients could also improve survival rates by 15 %, while days in hospital could be reduced by 26 % and subsequently save 10 % in nursing costs. Also, by using ePrescriptions errors in drugs dosage could be reduced by 15 %. It is also predicted that eHealth will be critical to keeping healthcare affordable and accessible to all in the ageing societies of Europe.
eHealth is also breaking down barriers, enabling health service providers (public authorities, hospitals) from different Member States to work more closely together and organise treatment abroad. Suppliers of eHealth tools – such as databases for patient records, mobile monitors which transmit data automatically, and handling systems for patient call centres – also benefit from the development of a European market in the sector, which has enabled them to build a strong base from which they can tackle the global market.
This corresponds with the EU's eHealth policy, which covers areas as diverse as patient rights in cross-border healthcare, funding advanced research and development, and ensuring that electronic health record systems are compatible internationally.
The Digital Agenda also aims to take eHealth to another level in 2015: providing Europeans secure access to their own online medical health records at home or when they are travelling in the EU. This would facilitate the work of doctors and enable patients to get the best medical help wherever they are in the European Union.