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Stepping Into a Digitalised Future: Integrating eHealth Into Public Healthcare Systems

19 February 2018

eHealth 2018

International Symposium “Stepping Into a Digitalised Future” provides a timely opportunity for practitioners and stakeholders across Europe to consider the current progress of eHealth, understand the barriers and challenges and discuss the next steps in establishing achievable objectives and the successful implementation of digital healthcare transformation programs. The symposium will be held on 28th of February in Brussel with main speakers  Arunas Vinciunas, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis Commissioner Health and Food Safety, Paul Quinn, Researcher, Law Science Technology and Society (LSTS), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pascal Coorevits, Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Department of Public Health - Unit of Medical Informatics and Statistics, University of Ghent, Michele Calabro’, Policy and Communications Manager, European Health Management Association

According to a survey carried out by the WHO in 2016, 70% of EU Member States have a national eHealth policy or strategy and 84% of Member States have a national universal health coverage policy or strategy. The research identified funding as the most important barrier to fully implementing eHealth programmes. In the recent years, it has become a key asset for improving how health information is gathered, managed and used.

The European Commission has made several steps towards a more digitalised healthcare system. In February 2017 the Commission set up an internal task force comprised of health and technology policy makers tasked to examine EU policy actions to ensure a successful digital healthcare transformation. As part of the Commission's Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, three priorities for EU actions were identified in the DSM mid-term review: enabling citizen's secure access to and use of health data across-borders, supporting a cross-border data infrastructure to advance research and personalised medicine and facilitating feedback and interaction between patients and health care providers, supporting citizen empowerment. Moreover, under the Estonian Presidency of the European Union the Digital Health Society (DHS) Declaration was launched as a call for actions about ”Health in the Digital society and the Digital society for health”, with the plan to integrate inputs from all the stakeholders interested in the development of Digital health.

However, the proposed digital transformation of the European healthcare system still faces a number of obstacles. Practitioners remain skeptical of the role of digital technology, many have expressed concerns over the poor usability of digital tools and have faced difficulties in measuring results. Information streams are growing exponentially, but there are still issues with gathering, storing and disseminating intelligence, as well as obvious ethical issues regarding the privacy of individuals arising with the dissemination of eHealth technology.