At the ETSI eHealth workshop in Nice (6 May), an analysis was made of the situation of telemedicine, home monitoring and personal health systems in Europe and the US.

The ETSI event gathered high level speakers from Europe, the US as well as participants from various places around the world.

The main findings of the event were the following: In the US 45 states have adopted laws on reimbursement of telemedicine and 21 states adopted mandates by law insurers to cover this kind of healthcare.

The point was made that ICT solutions for healthcare are there and work but if you do not provide incentives for users such as GPs to use them, the uptake is slow – reimbursement is therefore a crucial element.

Success stories

In Portugal, the Medigraf solution from Portugal Telecom was presented as a successful solution – It is is used between Portugal and 7 African countries to provide tele-consultation. It led to cost reduction in healthcare as only serious healthcare assessed through medigraf from African countries are now repatriated to Portugal ensuring greater efficiency in healthcare. Portugal is the 4th country to have reached 100% broadband coverage and tele-consultation is reimbursed as a medical act.

In Denmark, the MedCom platform was presented. All GPs of the country are trained and skilled to use eHealth while all citizens are required to use the platform (using a unique identifier) where they can see their health status, book GP appointments etc…Those who have difficulty using the platform can go seek help from their commune.

Home monitoring

Home monitoring is widely used in Denmark with intention to aggregate patient generated data to Electronic Health Records. It was explained that all data generated in hospitals go to a patient repository but these data are anonymised first. Furthermore, researchers who want to have access to these data need to request access to an ethical committee explaining the purpose of the research.

Regarding the platform, it is a pre-requisit that the patient gives express consent for his GP to have access to his ehealth record and only the treating GP can have such access.

Debate in the audience spread as to the cost effectiveness of home monitoring – some argued that it is very expensive to treat patients outside hospitals (others said the contrary).

Analysis of Personal Health Systems

The EU PHS Foresight project was presented. This project has analysed all the EU-funded FP6 & FP7 projects on Personal Health Systems (PHS) in order to reach policy conclusions on these systems. According to the researchers the main issues are:

  • The solutions are fragmented (not interoperable);
  • Technical solutions are not necessarily meeting demand;
  • Lack of governance.

Recommendations include: harmonisation of healthcare systems, common dictionaries, interoperability, EU research infrastructure (e.g. epSOS to maintain) and educational programmes.

Author: Céline Deswarte, policy officer DG Connect