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eHealth: from ambitions to actions

The Arctic Light e-Health Conference (ALEC) 2012 took place in Luleå, Sweden on 19-20 June. Leading politicians, business leaders, operators and public sector officials from all over Europe convened to discuss the healthcare of the future. This year the theme was "From Policy to Action". Participants looked at how we handle the increasing numbers of patients with chronic illnesses, and on the issues raised by the introduction of e-health services.

EPF President, Anders Olauson attended the event as a panellist to call audience’s attention to the importance of ensuring that future eHealth developments start from and respond to the real needs of patients.

He said “We hear a lot about innovation in all its guises. What I really hope to get out of this session is some creative thinking about how connect innovation with the empowerment agenda. Patient empowerment is arguably one of the most underestimated pieces of the eHealth jigsaw puzzle.  More than just accessing information regardless of the quality of this info, patients need the health literacy skills, and eHealth literacy skills, to be able to use that information effectively to be empowered”.

For EPF this conference was also  an opportunity to assess what progress has been made in putting patients at the centre of eHealth and present the preliminary results of the Chain of Trust project which was assessing the perspective of patients and health professionals on telehealth.

Walter Atzori, EPF Senior Programme Officer, who presented the Chain of TRUST findings at the Conference, highlighted the importance of paying attention to the “human side” of eHealth, an element which is still too often neglected when making decisions on introducing eHealth services. When it comes to telehealth, for instance, it is crucial that we carefully assess the impact of these services on patient-health professional relationship. A dramatic reduction in physical meetings is for instance not an option for the high majority of patients and health professionals, concluded him. He also drew the attention to some interesting figures coming out of the Chain of Trust survey. While 92% of patients are willing to play a more active role in managing their own condition, only 60% would be willing to use telehealth in the short-medium future, and less than 50% thinks they are ready to handle the additional responsibilities presented by telehealth. Likewise while 70% health professionals would be willing to use telehealth in the short-medium future only 20% reported that the management in their workplace promotes the use of telehealth and only 29% believe that their patients will be in the position to use telehealth service safely.

You can access Walter’s presentation at the following link.

All this calls for more focus on trust and acceptability in telehealth and there is no doubt the meaningful involvement of all users is highly instrumental in achieving this.

The Norrbotten County is one of the European regions with the most remarkable track records of successful implementation of patient-centred eHealth services and cooperates with EPF in two flagship eHealth projects, RENEWING HeALTH  - piloting innovative telemedicine services in 9 European regions, and SUSTAINS - deploying patient accessible eHealth services in 11 European regions.

Two years after the launch of the project, ambitions were transformed into actions. “Today we know more about what is required for the reorientation we are going through. What was formerly described as belonging to the future has become reality, at the same time as developments are progressing at a furious rate. In a way we are constantly creating the new future,” says Per-Olof Egnell, programme coordinator for ALEC 2012.