Guest blog: Jeroen Tas, CEO Connected Care and Health Informatics, Philips

Source: A. (Andrus) Ansip i, published on Monday, June 6 2016.

I would like to welcome Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips Connected Care and Health Informatics, with a guest blog about the importance of taking a unified approach to e-healthcare in Europe.

This week sees the start of the annual European e-health week, a tremendous showcase of innovation and the arena for sharing and experiencing best practices in healthcare IT.

In Europe, healthcare lags a long way behind virtually every other sector in implementing IT. But it is also clear that IT applications can revolutionise and improve how we take care of ourselves.

Digital technologies can help to bring about better health, along with better and safer care for patients. They can help health and care systems to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

But to date, the potential of eHealth in the EU's single market is not being fully realised.

One reason for this - among several - is a lack of technical compatibility and common standards, especially since more and more people, health products and services are crossing EU borders in an expanding market where different eHealth systems should be able to talk to and understand each other.

It means that the European Union has splintered market in healthcare, which in turn means more cost, as well as slow uptake by both individuals and public authorities.

The initiatives planned under our Digital Single Market strategy will help to solve many of these issues - for example, coordinating digital standards across sectors.

Welcome now to this guest blog by Jeroen Tas on #Ansipblogs:

Connecting Europe: the importance of a unified approach to e-healthcare

By Jeroen Tas, CEO Connected Care and Health Informatics, Philips

Building a unified digital Europe

The European Union has always been an ambitious project that aims to benefit so many aspects of our lives - such as peace, security, prosperity - as well as addressing and combatting some of society’s biggest issues today: economic growth, terrorism, climate change, escalating health costs and ageing populations.

When it comes to healthcare, the EU is fractured into 28 different markets, each with varying healthcare device certification, professional health practice regulation, data privacy, security and data residency laws. The EU spends around 10% of its GDP on healthcare and faces substantial challenges with increasing chronic disease, graying populations and escalating costs. Only 3% of healthcare budgets of the 28 EU Member States are spent on prevention, whereas 80% of cardiovascular diseases, 90% of diabetes 2 and 50% of cancers are preventable.

Joined- up thinking

eHealth - the application of digital technologies for healthcare - lags behind the U.S., where a more ‘joined-up’ approach to health and chronic care management has brought tremendous benefits to patients and healthcare professionals alike. There, we see a gradual transition to integrated care delivery networks with the consumer at the center. Wherever possible, care is being moved out of expensive acute settings, like hospitals and clinics, and shifted to environments where it can be provided in more affordable and accessible ways, such as in the general practitioner’s office, retail outlets or in the home.

This also implies a more preventive approach to care, earlier and more targeted interventions and better post-hospital follow-up to avoid re-hospitalization.


Two-way video communications as part of Banner Health’s (U.S.) ambulatory remote care program

Examples are the virtual Intensive Care Unit (eICU) telehealth programs that show highly positive effects on ICU length of stay, costs of care and even mortality rates. In addition, digital care programs focused on the most fragile and cost-intensive group of patients allow care organizations to monitor people in the most need: the elderly and those with multiple chronic conditions.

Successful programs use mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to stream patient data, which is combined with patient records to prioritize patients for intervention by integrated care teams. The impact has been huge. In many studies, re-admissions have been reduced by 50% and emergency admissions by 70%, which reduces costs dramatically and increases patient satisfaction.


A connected eICU in the United States

These and similar examples suggest a need for a better eHealth infrastructure within Europe - not only to help us deal with societal health challenges but also to allow us to capitalize on the tremendous global opportunities that healthcare innovation will bring.

A European Digital Single Market - lessons from banking

Part of the solution is to create large-scale digital infrastructure specifically for health, to reap the full benefits of a European Digital Single Market. It is remarkable that we live in a world where money can be accessed from any smartphone or ATM in almost any country around the world.

Of course this didn’t happen overnight and had plenty of critics during the early days of online banking. But today we have a financial experience that is 24/7, secure, connected, customer-centric and personalized.

Similarly, we have the opportunity to make personal health data and pathways truly portable and accessible across Europe. We can build a social and health research platform to mine the data for new population health insights and to trigger health innovations.

Access to critical health data today is cumbersome, because data is fragmented and its use is constrained by local regulation. However, there is no reason why the same evolution cannot happen in the health industry. A truly European Digital Single Market will allow us to share research data and best practices, improve personalized care and permit trained healthcare professionals to work anywhere across the EU, in situ or remotely.

Implementing public-private partnerships

In Europe, we have seen initial success with initiatives that bring together companies, universities, hospitals and healthcare authorities across regions to define key enabling technologies that will help grow and scale best practice. This works best if standardized data sets including program outcomes and economic impact data - such as cost per patient and the impact on hospital income models - are shared and can be measured in a consistent replicable way.

It’s important to invest in research and best practices, but we sorely need a core infrastructure for health device connectivity and health data management. Think of it as a road system for health data and patient pathways.

The right balance

The world of healthcare is infinitely more complex than that of finance. Each one of us is unique. Many technology-related barriers exist today -standardization, data access, interoperability and identity management, for example. All of them will need to be, and can be, tackled.

In Estonia, we have seen that a common digital identity system that links health data leads to better care and greater patient engagement.

We see that people working in the healthcare sector take inspiration from the financial infrastructure that allows us to securely pay and settle transactions anywhere in the world. It’s about finding the right balance between data portability, privacy and security. If banks have been able to design successful and ubiquitous e-banking, then health and homecare should be able to learn from these best practices and create an interconnected system, using a pan-European eHealth infrastructure.

Of course technology alone is not enough: we need to change healthcare models so that they are outcome-focused and patient-centric, as well as reimbursement schemes. This will ensure that our healthcare models meet the evolving needs of Europeans.

Jeroen Tas, CEO Connected Care and Health Informatics, Philips