In a journey that started over a decade ago, the Ministry of Health of Latvia demonstrated its commitment to achieving universal health coverage by creating a national programme of electronic health (eHealth). This has been a key element of ensuring that Latvian people receive the right care in the right place and at the right time.
In the past, concerns such as data privacy and confidentiality were a barrier to converting Latvia’s fragmented, paper-based system into a modern, efficient and accessible eHealth system. Now, several comprehensive improvements, aided by technical support from the WHO Country Office in Latvia, have helped the eHealth system reach a high level of reliability and acceptance.
To read more about Latvia’s eHealth journey on the WHO website go to: WHO/Europe | The eHealth journey in Latvia
In a recent study, screening rates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among baby boomers increased fivefold in the year following implementation of an electronic health record (EHR)-based prompt for primary care physicians. The prompt also led to dramatic increases in follow-up specialised care for infected patients, according to the Hepatology study.
To read more: Electronic Health Record Alert Improves HCV Screening and Treatment
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how Europe should promote digital innovation in health and care, for the benefits of citizens and health systems in Europe. The input will feed into a new policy Communication to be adopted by the end of 2017, as announced in the recent review of the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy.
Mariya Gabriel and Carlos Moedas stated:
‘We are dedicated to improving European citizens’ quality of living by improving Europe’s health, care and research systems by using digital technologies to their full potential. This consultation will help us identify ways to offer citizens, medical professionals and researchers better access to health data, prevention, rapid response to pandemic threats, personalised treatments and care. We are considering new digital initiatives to deliver on the free movement of patients and data, to support the modernisation of national health systems, and to bring together scattered evidence and innovative knowledge from across Europe. At the heart of our policies, citizens and their wellbeing are our first priority.’
The consultation will collect information on three main pillars:
- Citizens’ secure access to their health data and the possibility to share it across borders, clarifying citizens’ rights and enhancing interoperability of electronic health records in Europe;
- Connecting and sharing data and expertise to advance research, personalise health and care, and better anticipate epidemics;
- Using digital services to promote citizen empowerment and integrated person-centred care.
Citizens, patient organisations, health and care professionals, public authorities, researchers, industries, investors, insurers and users of digital health tools are all invited to share their views via EU Survey until 12 October 2017.
This report ‘How can voluntary cross-border collaboration in public procurement improve access to health technologies in Europe?’ examines the legal framework put in place by the EU to foster voluntary cross-border collaboration in the field of public procurement of health technologies. It looks at recent experiences and developments in cross-border collaboration across Europe and explores the challenges and opportunities that such cross-border collaboration present.
To download the report on cross-border collaboration in public procurement from the euro.who.int website
Europe faces a major challenge with the sustainability and quality of health and care provision, as a consequence of demographic change and improvements in medical treatment. Public expenditure on health and long-term care has been increasing over the last decades in all EU Member States, and is expected to rise even further as a consequence of an ageing population. In 2015, it accounted for 8.7% of GDP in the EU and could reach up to 12.6% of GDP in 2060, according to a recent EU report.
Digital technology can improve health and care provision, allowing citizens to live longer and more healthy life years (HLYs) and it can help in innovating the way we deliver and receive health and care services. The European Commission has set up a task force bringing together technology and health policy makers in order to put the citizen at the centre of health and care re-design.
For more information about the taskforce to take health and digital policies further on the ec.europa.eu website
A new study on Big Data in Public Health, Telemedicine and Healthcare identifies examples of the use of Big Data in Health, and puts forward recommendations covering 10 relevant fields: awareness raising, education and training, data sources, open data and data sharing, applications and purposes, data analysis, governance of data access and use, standards, funding and financial resources, and legal and privacy aspects.
In the context of this study, “big data in health” refers to large routinely or automatically collected datasets, which are electronically captured and stored. Using Big Data in health has many potential benefits. It may contribute to, for example, increasing the effectiveness and quality of treatments available for patients, widening possibilities for disease prevention by identifying risk factors at population, sub-population, and individual levels, improving pharmacovigilance and patient safety, and reducing inefficiency and waste.
The study’s 10 recommendations are aimed at maximising opportunities Big Data can bring to public health in the EU – to improve the health of individual patients as well as the performance of Member States’ health systems. All recommendations are underpinned by principles such as the need to uphold ethical standards and the privacy or safety of citizens, and to include stakeholders – such as patient advocacy groups, when implementing them.
To read the full report on Big Data in Health on the ec.europa.eu website
The European Commission’s Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health has just been renewed for three more years, running until May 2019. The aim of the Panel is to provide the Commission with independent advice from a variety of sectors to support modern, responsive and sustainable health systems.
The Panel’s new members cover a wide range of disciplines, including human medicine, public health and economics. It will support the Commission’s efforts to provide evidence-based policy-making using both country-specific and cross-country knowledge and will support the agenda on effective, accessible and resilient health systems.
More information about the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health on the ec.europa.eu website.
Life expectancy now exceeds 80 years in most EU countries according to the new report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016“, but these are not always healthy life years. Around 50 million people in the EU suffer from several chronic diseases, and more than half a million people of working age die from them every year, representing an annual cost of some €115 billion for EU economies. Three fundamental changes are needed if this is going to change:
- more effective health systems: 550,000 people of working age die every year from potentially avoidable diseases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smoking. Many lives could be saved firstly, by focusing more resources on health promotion and disease prevention strategies and secondly, by improving the quality of acute and chronic care.
- more accessible health systems: 27% of patients go to A & E due to the lack of availability of primary care; an average of 15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients with large disparities between countries; and poor Europeans are on average 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare for financial reasons than more affluent ones. Member States’ policies should focus on reducing financial barriers to healthcare, strengthening access to primary care, and reducing excessive waiting times.
- more resilient health systems: Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is projected to increase to nearly 30% by 2060. Population ageing, combined with increasing rates of chronic diseases and budgetary constraints, will require changes in how we deliver healthcare, including developing eHealth, reducing hospital stays by organising services better in primary and community care, and spending more wisely on pharmaceuticals, including by making full use of opportunities for generic substitutions.
More information about Improving Health Systems on the europa.eu website
Tara Duthie, who lives in Stirling, Scotland tried to quit smoking four times in 5 years. Then, in 2015 aged just 49, she had a heart attack – it was a wake-up call she could not ignore. She started using an app to help her stop smoking which not only gave her information about physiological changes but also had little games that she could play to distract herself for the 3 or 4 minutes a craving for a cigarette would last.
Smart phone apps that help with lifestyle change are growing in popularity. However, few public health authorities have mechanisms in place to regulate their quality or have a strategy to guide how they could be used for health promotion.
According to the latest e-health report, “From innovation to implementation – e-health in the WHO European Region“, the health authorities of 22 countries in the Region promote the development and adoption of m-health (mobile health) in the health sector. Around a quarter (11 countries) report that their health authorities regulate mobile devices and software for quality, safety and reliability. In 7 countries the health authorities play no role in the development or adoption of m-health. The report further shows that, when governments sponsor m-health programmes, they are also more likely to provide incentives and guidance on innovation and evaluation, as well as regulation for their use.
For more information about mobile health and smoking on the euro.who.int website