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Only Patient-Centred Solutions Can Ensure eHealth Brings Benefits For Patients

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Over the last few years, eHealth has been an increasing policy priority for EPF. In our recently published position paper, we underline the need to foster patient‐centred development of eHealth, with equity of access, patient safety, and quality of care as key pillars.

eHealth is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health. Examples include treating patients, conducting research, educating the health workforce, tracking diseases and monitoring public health.

EPF’s main objectives with regards to eHealth are:

  • To acquire thorough understanding of patients’ needs and perspectives on eHealth
  • To ensure that eHealth services are designed, assessed, and implemented in a patient-centred way and ensure that eHealth policies and programmes effectively enable and promote patient-centeredness.
  • To ensure that implementation of eHealth services is accompanied by strategies for strengthening health literacy and patient empowerment

In this regard, last December, EPF published a position paper on eHealth. This paper was developed following a consultation of the EPF Policy Advisory Group and larger EPF membership and draws on the findings of various eHealth-related projects in which EPF has participated in over the last few years.

EPF’s position paper on eHealth focuses on 5 areas:

  1. Patient-centred eHealth
  2. eHealth and patients’ data
  3. eHealth and access to healthcare
  4. Safety and quality of eHealth services
  5. Electronic health records

The paper also makes key recommendations for each of focus areas, including:

  • Setting meaningful user involvement (including patients, family carers, healthcare professionals) as a criterion for EU projects related to ICT in health.  No more ‘tick box’ option, we need a proper evaluation framework and criteria (e.g. Value+)
  • Development of EU guidelines for developers of eHealth services on user requirements in eHealth
  • A clearer assessment at EU level of whether eHealth/mHealth tools are medical devices or not - Develop a certification system at EU level for mHealth apps
  • Encouragement of EU-funded research to develop a framework/ model for meaningful user involvement in design. eHealth service developers should consult patients to ensure they understand their privacy concerns and needs (including secondary use of data)
  • Development of an EU reimbursement model for equitable access to eHealth services
  • Development of an EU evaluation framework of health technology assessment for eHealth services – based on patient-driven outcome measures

Why does eHealth matter for EU patients?

eHealth is often cited as a solution towards sustainability of healthcare and improved public health services management in a context of growing healthcare demand due to demographic change and shortages of healthcare professionals. eHealth can also be used as a means to more effectively provide or exchange information, whether for healthcare professionals, patients, or citizens.

The European Commission’s eHealth action plan states that eHealth could help improve chronic diseases and multimorbidity management, enhance patient centric care, foster cross‐border healthcare, and increase efficiency of healthcare systems and equity of access.

While there are certainly high hopes in eHealth for EU patients and healthcare systems, EPF calls on the EU institutions and Member States to foster patient-centred development of eHealth, with equity of access, patient safety, and quality of care as key pillars.

Contact person:

Kaisa Immonen, Director of Policy, kaisa.immonen@eu-patient.eu