by Yee Theng Ng
Over the past few years, innovation in the healthcare industry has given rise to digitalisation to embrace integrated care solutions. The ability to harness big data could radically transform healthcare systems. Patients can be actively engaged in disease prevention and management, and receive quicker diagnosis. Healthcare providers can also zero in on the right treatments. This is already happening in Kobe, Japan, where supercomputers are storing loads of patient data to improve health system efficiency. How far has Europe come in realising such transformation?
At the European Business Summit 2017, Director-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission Xavier Prats-Monne said that technology presents a huge opportunity for the future of healthcare, especially with regard to treating chronic diseases. Thus, to make technology fit for purpose, stakeholders who do not presently speak to each other should do so. This means having a “common language” and to reduce apprehension of stakeholders by gaining their trust. His views were also shared by other industry panellists at the “Future of Healthcare” roundtable who believe that partnerships are key to achieving digital healthcare revolution in Europe. The 2011 EU Directive and mid-term review of the Digital Single Market earlier this year aims to promote greater cooperation in e-health. DG Prats-Monne shared the three key themes of the DSM proposal (i) to give effect to the right of every citizen to access and share securely their personal health data; (ii) support the development of a secure data infrastructure for the pooling of health data to advance research, disease prevention and personalised health and care; (iii) facilitate feedback and interaction between patients and healthcare providers. These proposals will be delivered in a Communication on digital health later this year.
While digital innovation can help improve the efficiency of healthcare systems and reduce costs in the long run, DG Prats-Monne believes that “innovation still needs to be accepted and understood; otherwise, it will be lost on a nurse who’s scared of losing her job.”
Indeed, digital literacy is also key to embracing e-health. If citizens see the benefits of how health data can provide better care, they will be more willing to contribute data for scientific research purposes.
Today, citizens want to have access over their personal health data and giving them control can help solve privacy concerns while allowing them to take advantage of big data applications. In addition, ensuring data security will help citizens in embracing and gaining trust of the digital tools. Several EU Member States are building a legal framework for automatic medical data sharing for research, with the goal of ensuring health data is used securely through good data governance. Progress has also been made in 16 countries on e-prescriptions and 5% of EU citizens now receive treatment in another EU country.
Ain Aaviksoo, Deputy Secretary General for E-services and Innovation at Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia, shared Estonia’s success story in the e-health transformation. Estonia’s Health Information System is now used by 98% of Estonian citizens. Also, 99% of all medicine is issued using a digital prescription. Perhaps the upcoming Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union could help incite other Member states to make similar investments in their healthcare infrastructure and raise the bar to digitise of healthcare in Europe.
When asked by Young European Leadership how young citizens could contribute to the process of innovation, many speakers highlighted the idea of “reverse mentoring” whereby youths who are more digital-savvy can provide better care solutions. Thus, the time is now to contribute our part in the e-health transformation.
Read more from YEL’s delegation to the European Business Summit 2017 here.
Yes Theng Ng is a YEL delegate to the European Business Summit 2017. She is currently working towards an MBA at HEC Paris. Prior to her MBA, she worked as a policy advisor with the Singapore government on energy and trade issues, where she frequently engages with governments, international organisations and private companies. At HEC Paris, she continues to pursue her passion for international politics and economy as president of the International Affairs Society.