The event kicked off with a VIP Exhibition Tour and a Press Conference, led by three representatives: Dr. Guntis Belēvičs, Minister for Health of Latvia, Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis (Health and Food Safety) and H. Stephen Lieber, CEO of HIMSS. Afterwards they opened the conference together with keynote speaker Toomas H.Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia.
In his speech, Commissioner Andriukaitis highlighted the timely release of the Digital Single Market: "We must seize the Digital Single Market opportunities to fulfil a vision for healthcare in the 21st century – a vision of a single, universally accessible, sustainable and high quality, eHealth single market for the benefit of all European citizens and healthcare professionals".
He also highlighted the importance of eHealth Week: "By coming together at events such as this and by sharing experiences in the Member States and at EU level, we will drive forward the case for eHealth".
According to President Ilves, Estonia has been a frontrunner in eHealth: Nearly all prescriptions are issued electronically, and two-thirds of hospitals use eHealth technologies in some way.
Politico magazine wrote that Ilves touted Estonia as a model of how IT in preventive and treatment services can "improve both the welfare of patients and the healthcare system in general." But more widely across Europe, "healthcare is lagging ten years behind when compared to other industries," he said.
Increasing dynamism of EU economy
Head of Unit for eHealth & Wellbeing Pēteris Zilgalvis (European Commission), who was also in Riga, said: "Digital solutions can increase the dynamism of the European economy and deliver benefits to EU citizens." For him, the conference offered the chance to explore how mobile health and eHealth can help EU citizens manage their own health by empowering them, as well "ensuring the sustainability of our health care systems."
During the event, the Nordic countries revealed interesting findings and next steps for them in terms of eHealth. Finland, for instance, announced they will be switching off paper-based prescriptions by 2017, as they “have reached nearly 100% coverage with electronic prescriptions now”, according to Maritta Korhonen, Head of Development in the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Paul Timmers, Director for Digital Society, Trust and Security (DG CONNECT, European Commission), who spoke during the closing plenary said he was rooting for a European eHealth Community which can turn actions into tangible results with real impact for patients. He said: "I am glad to see that the eHealth community is committed to deliver results with real influence in terms of healthier citizens, more efficient and better healthcare services and economic growth and jobs. By joining up forces and learning from each other we can deliver a social and economic return on digital investment in health and social care".
eHealth Week 2015 concluded with an invitation to join next year’s edition in Amsterdam, during the week of 6 June, in The Netherlands, the country which at that time will be holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
- EU-funded project press release: "FICHe showcases 40 startups during eHealthWeek in Riga"
- Storify: a collection of #eHW15 tweets
- Photo's of eHealth Week 2015
- Video President Ilves: Recommendations for eHealth
Read also in relation to eHealth Week:
- mHealth in Europe: Next steps
- Digital single market strategy could help healthcare transcend borders
- Meet the best European eHealth SME's of 2015