On 14 January, MEPs voted on a resolution in support of the eHealth Action Plan (eHAP) 2012-2020, with the aim of improving healthcare for the benefit of patients, giving them more control of their care and bringing down healthcare costs through ICT: innovative and user-friendly eHealth and mHealth tools. While the benefits of ICT have been widely reported, what about the link between eHealth and health inequalities?
Vice-President and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes welcomed European Parliament support for the eHealth Action Plan (eHAP) 2012-2020, voted on 14 January, which addresses barriers to the full use of digital solutions in Europe’s healthcare systems. The eHAP (see here for EPHA’s Position) is supposed to bring eHealth one step closer to end users and has also been designed to harness the innovation potential of the booming ICT for health sector.
MEP Pilar Ayuso (Spain, EPP), the Rapporteur on the report on the eHAP 2012-2020 approved by the European Parliament, had already organised a workshop in September where many of the challenges of the healthcare system - an ageing population, impacts of chronic diseases, mobility of patients and healthcare professionals and increasingly tight healthcare budgets - were discussed by stakeholders including EPHA (click here to see all workshop meeting documents including EPHA’s).
The Ayuso report supports the idea that eHealth can meet these challenges to ensure the provision of reliable, effective and high-quality healthcare, e.g. by improving access to healthcare services for people living in remote and sparsely populated areas, enhancing working conditions and reducing waiting times. The Rapporteur emphasises the need to ensure the technical standardisation and interoperability of EU healthcare systems, and makes recommendations in the domains of training of healthcare professionals, research on eHealth, cooperation among Member States, and legal and data protection.
The report aims at providing high quality services focusing on patient safety, but which also work for health professionals. In particular, Ayuso calls for patient and health professional involvement before and during the development of eHealth applications. eHealth will only work properly and across Europe if it empowers end users and builds up trust and confidence that services can be better. Moreover, Ayuso emphasises the importance of legal certainty when it comes to hotly contested issues such as data protection, confidentiality, privacy and responsibility.
In its work on eHealth and as part of the eHealth Stakeholder Group coordinated by DG CONNECT, EPHA has emphasised over the last year the crucial - yet often overlooked - link between eHealth and health inequalities.
In particular, EPHA calls for eHealth technologies that can accommodate diverse needs, for the integration of eHealth into overall health and health equity policies, and for improving ’eHealth literacy’ (as a function of several literacies related to the use of ICT, reading and writing skills, media and health information knowledge and deployment).
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