More than 150 eHealth stakeholders met late last year in Brussels. Their aim was to discuss how the delivery models of European healthcare and welfare can be changed to make them better fit the long-term needs of persons with chronic conditions – one of the outstanding challenges in modern health systems regarding access and cost.
The EHTEL (European Health Telematics Association) Symposium convened, at a European level, “leaders, drivers, and frontrunners, including health policy, competence centers, and many stakeholder representatives” such as care providers and payer organizations, organizers summarized. The event was hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee EESC.
Telehealth sports a significant number of obvious benefits, outlined Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips in her keynote. The Associate Medical Director of Quality, The Permanente Federation, Kaiser Permanente, USA, explained that the IT-supported approach can help, e.g., provide care regardless of time and location; it can connect patients to a care provider even before they get sick; and it helps people age “in place” instead of in facilities. For Kaiser Permanente, there are three models to telehealth, summarized Dr. Phillips: real-time teleconsultation of patients and physicians; store-and-forward teleconsultation with a waiting time and a pool of consultants involved; and telemonitoring of biometrics handled via hubs and a care team. Teledermatology at Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides a successful example for the store-and-forward teleconsultation concept.
Telemonitoring on the upswing?
The EHTEL2011 Symposium was co-located with the RENEWING HeALTH Midterm Workshop; that term stands for “Regions in Europe Working together for health”. This large project brings together various regions in Europe, centers of competence, as well as advisory boards with users and with industry representatives. According to Lorenzo Gubian from the consortium partner Regione Veneto, a number of EU conferences and reports are being organized to “describe telemonitoring and the potential benefits of a wider use of telemedicine applications in Europe”. Current telemonitoring activities focus, in this context, on diabetes, COPD, and CVD.
Many pilot projects have never made their way into routine care; the consortium looks into issues and barriers such as evidence of contribution to quality of care, technology options, organization models, the physician/patients perspective, legal aspects, cost/effectiveness, and financing. Expected project results include a detailed report for decision makers, the validation of a new “Model for the Assessment of Telemedicine” services (MAST), as well as guidelines on how European telemonitoring prototypes can become sustainable services. The workshop in Brussels presented an overview of RENEWING HeALTH Pilots, with a focus on telemedicine enabling seamless services in the personal sphere, and lessons learned from pilot evaluations.
“New models go way beyond the scope of venerable traditions like organizing health and welfare in independent silos”, symposium organizers summarized; they “seamlessly integrate the healthcare and social service domains”. eHealth/Telemedicine provide personal health services and can contribute significantly to the successful implementation of health strategies which meet today’s demands regarding access, quality, and cost. In Brussels, demonstrations and service presentations provided some evidence as to how it “should be possible to move from high level EU policy initiatives into operational sustainable services”, according to a statement from EHTEL.