The report analyses opportunities for encouraging patients to actively manage their own health through the use of information and communication technology. It also outlines the barriers to make use of these opportunities and suggests policy recommendations to overcome the barriers.

Encouraging patients to actively manage their own health through the use of information and communication technology

Overview of the actual situation and the major trends of practical implementations in EU countries.

The collected eighty case studies offer references on best practices aiming to improve access and quality of care by supporting a variety of patient-empowering eHealth implementation approaches.

While there is diversity across European countries, there are common themes in eHealth implementations concerning patient empowerment, just as there are common challenges to tackle. A common issue is the gap between high level declarations and the practical extended adoption of the eHealth tools.

The optimistic expectations expressed a decade ago about the development of Internet-based applications in Medicine (eHealth) have evolved over recent years to a more realistic scenario, in which the national/regional plans for eHealth are the main actors in Europe. At the same time, the vision of eHealth applications for patient empowerment have extended their range from a first wave of quite simple Internet based tools to become complex collaborative systems to support chronic care. The current trends show opportunities for RDT and innovation to reinforce the eHealth market with new products and solutions addressing European society's demands.

The growing interest in PHRs has led to the development of national level as well as smaller scale initiatives across Europe. The main purpose of introducing PHRs has been to empower patients with a sense of ownership of their care and to improve communication between both patients and clinicians, as well as between different clinicians involved in that person’s care. The introduction of web-based ePHRs has been considered by some authors to revolutionise communication between patients and healthcare professionals. However, the sharing of sensitive electronic health information requires a new level of trust between patients and the health professionals and organizations that serve them.

The issue of patients viewing and controlling their ePHR, and of the issues that an ePHR would raise in terms of patient empowerment would benefit from further research.

The implementation of eHealth applications serving patient empowerment philosophy presents particular requirements above and beyong the traditional eHealth ones. The understanding of requirements, design principles and implementation issues, concerning such applications pertaining to eHealth ERA Priority Cluster 2, are quite limited. Progress in the field should benefit from future studies which both help to develop theoretical models of patient empowerment, articulate the conditions under which patient empowerment occurs and the eHealth tools role. Interdisciplinary research is needed, not only to explore the technological requirements, but also to address the formal analysis and modeling of care processes, interoperability of different health information systems, organizational barriers, deployment strategies and consequences of creating collaborative healthcare information systems.

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