Even in our digital age there is nothing more valuable than good health. Digital solutions for health and healthcare (or 'eHealth') can help us preserve our good health in many ways: it empowers; it supports faster diagnosis, a more effective treatment and thus better health outcomes.
eHealth that empowers people
Digital technologies offer a unique chance to manage your own health. You can get to better know your own body thanks to mobile apps and trustworthy websites. They can give you access to your health data or help you track your fitness. At the end of the day you can check your smartphone if you reached your 'steps'- target and maybe you decide to have another walk after dinner. No time to go to the gym? Follow online yoga classes at home.
Seniors entrust wireless tools at home to monitor their health status and to connect to their families and carers. In an ageing society, with more and more chronic diseases eHealth can complement or eventually replace traditional healthcare solutions. This would save money and reduce administrative burden.
Digitising health data
Switching from paper records to information stored in a comprehensive electronic medical record has lot of advantages. Patients may be able to share in a simple and secure way their entire medical history with all the health and care professionals they get in touch with. This allows a more personalised and thus more effective treatment. Simple technical solutions such as ePrescriptions (electronically prescribing medications) can help reduce medical errors by highlighting that a dosage doesn't correspond to the age of a patient or that an underlying disease is a contraindication to the selected medicine.
Today, not all European citizens have access to their health data and rather limited health data is used for health research purposes. But personalised medicine can become reality only if health data are digital and accessible.
Big data and healthcare
Analysing health-related big data (information from clinical trials, electronic health records, insurance claims, telemedicine, mobile apps, home monitoring, social media etc.) will unlock a pool of valuable knowledge in an unprecedented way.
As our understanding of disease development, diagnosis and treatment will improve we will do better in disease prevention, in identifying early signals of ill-health.
We are currently funding projects that could tap into this knowledge in a secure way that respects the privacy of personal data. The European Cloud initiative will make it easier for researchers and innovators to access and process health data. eHealth is one of the areas that can definitely profit from our Digitising European Industry strategy, including in the area of standards where better interoperability will foster large scale deployment and uptake of eHealth solutions.
ICT research for Health and Wellbeing
The European Commission supports a wider uptake of eHealth. For 2016-2017 we set aside almost a quarter of a billion euros under our Horizon 2020 funding programme, for research and innovation projects in the area of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Health and Wellbeing.
PAL is research project that is working on a social robot and health apps to assist and monitor 7-14 year old children with type 1 diabetes. The aim is to teach children to develop habits on how to adhere to their diabetes regimen. This way they will be able to self-manage their disease for the rest of their lives and it also prevents them from experiencing severe episodes.
Semeoticons develops a "smart mirror" that can tell what your health status is by examining your face. The computerized evaluation of facial signs will focus on those signs that relate to some risk factors of cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke.
The Human Brain Project is a major enterprise in the fields of neuroscience, computing and brain-related medicine. It aims to modelise and simulate the human brain in order to understand it better. In March 2016 the project released its ICT platforms to users outside the project in order to help the scientific community to accelerate progress in neuroscience, medicine and computing.
Our main activities in the field of eHealth are brought together in the eHealth Action Plan 2012 – 2020. In the near future we will be asking you via a public consultation what our next steps to improve policy, research and innovation in eHealth should be.
Integrating Big Data & ICT Solutions will be one of the key topics that we will discuss on 1 June at the Personalised Medicine Conference organised by our colleagues at the Directorate General for Research. We look forward to hearing your views.