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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
According to the study "Strategic Intelligence Monitor on Personal Health Systems (SIMPHS): Market Structure and Innovation Dynamics", telemedicine can help make a difference in the face of an increasingly heavy burden of demand for service in the health sector. In an ageing Europe, where more and more citizens live with chronic diseases, it can prove very useful.
Personal Health Systems (PHS) and Remote Patient Monitoring and Treatment (RMT) have the potential to alter the way healthcare is provided by increasing the quantity and quality of care. A report on the findings of the study, published today by the JRC's Institute for Prospective and Technological studies (IPTS), explores the current status of Personal Health Systems and, more specifically, of the Remote Patient Monitoring and Treatment market in Europe.
The general question underlying this research is how telemedicine can contribute to dealing with some of the challenges caused by the higher demand for healthcare due to chronic diseases and demographic change, combined with diminishing resources.
The report provides ample evidence on the encouraging outcomes of early RMT deployment, while analysing the impact of the outcomes and modelling the potential from an EU-wide perspective. Uptake and diffusion of these services would potentially reduce mortality rates, and avoid recurring hospitalisation in a cost-effective manner.
However, the report also identifies various barriers which hamper the full deployment of RMT in Europe. For example, companies providing the service mention constraints to market scale, lack of formal reimbursement processes, unclear return on investment and business model choices, fragmentation of purchasers and the difficulties in obtaining approval and certification from healthcare organisations. Moreover, there are few incentives for healthcare professionals to introduce RMT.
The report concludes with a number of tentative policy options which coincide with the conclusions of the 2010 ministerial eHealth Conference in Barcelona on "Telemedicine and Home Care" which called for, among other things,: the provision of increased and sustained awareness-raising and further financial support; the exploration of synergies between eHealth and eInclusion policies; support for joint health and social research and innovation pilots, and networking and the emergence of hubs among RMT champions and innovators.
The EU-wide deployment of RMT/PHS systems offer an effective solution to the demand for increased quantity and quality of healthcare in Europe.
Following the eHealth Action Plan launched by the EU in 2004, the European Commission addressed in 2008 the main barriers to be overcome in order to facilitate greater deployment, highlighting three key issues: increasing confidence and acceptance of telemedicine services; gaining legal clarity and overcoming unsolved technical issues and supporting market development. The first and the third key issues are addressed in this report prepared within the study "Strategic Intelligence Monitor on Personal Health Systems" (SIMPHS) conducted by JRC-IPTS.