Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools
by Dominic Tyer
iPhone blood glucose monitor: the European Commission wants more use to be made of digital healthcare tools
This year looks set to be an interesting one for eHealth in Europe, as the European Commission tries to inject more pace into the area.
Although it has been actively promoting eHealth in the region for over a decade, initial progress has been slow, only really picking up after the launch of 2010's Digital Agenda.
Health is a key component of that wide ranging, and ongoing, programme, but two eHealth initiatives that bookended 2012 could start accelerating progress.
The year started with the Commission's decision to set up an eHealth Network of national authorities, one of whose tasks would be to drive uptake of technologies like tele-monitoring and e-prescriptions.
Then, as 2012 ended, came the Commission's eHealth Action Plan, promising “smart and sustainable healthcare” and mapping out its targets until 2020 and assigning an integral role to the eHealth Network.
Its part in the plans will see it working towards eHealth 'interoperability', essentially ensuring different systems can work together, for EU Member States.
This kind of behind the scenes intervention will be crucial if big promises like getting an electronic health system from one member state to talk to one in another are to be delivered.
Beyond that, the plan intends to ensure healthcare systems make more use of digital technology, with the ultimate aim of improving healthcare for the benefits of patients and giving patients more control of their care.
Increasing the pace of change
The kind of digital technology the Commission has in mind are services that enable things like digital communication between patients and healthcare providers, peer-to-peer communication by patients, electronic health records, and wearable and portable personal health systems.
Unconsciously echoing the kind of language that will be familiar to many a pharma company, the commissioner for health and consumer policy Tonio Borg promised in December that eHealth would deliver “high quality, patient-centric, healthcare”.
“[This] action plan will help turn the eHealth potential into better care for our citizens," he said.
Follow-up actions for pharma
So, what does this all mean for pharma? A lot of it speaks of systemic change, not necessarily involving the industry.
But, if delivered, the changes it wants to see would have a knock-on effect on policy makers, healthcare professionals and patients.
It would also be another step forward in transforming the way they view, and use, technology in healthcare. This will be particularly noticeable if the Commission can, as it plans, increase citizens' 'digital health literacy'.