March 2016


This post was written for, and published by, HIMSS Europe on the 11 March 2016, in the run up to eHealth Week 2016 in Amsterdam. 


The kind of healthcare innovations we find ourselves discussing today are a natural extension to the never-ending innovation medicine has always been about. Always learning, always improving for the betterment of the health and comfort of the people it serves.  An extension from diagnosis and treatment into an even increasing focus of prevention, and better management of the condition. Ignoring this continued innovation, the opportunities to transform the daily lives, at some point and to varying degrees, of hundreds of millions of European citizens would be tragic.

At eHealth Week in Amsterdam, organised by HIMSS Europe, the Dutch Ministry of Health and the European Commission I’m confident we’ll see the fruits of much innovation.

For those who have infrequent interactions with the health service, current healthcare delivery probably seems  OK, but even within this ‘silent majority’, there remains scope for each and every one of us to be better taken care of and for opportunities for preventative or early warning of need for care to interject. Innovative solutions to improve education through communication is hugely important too for public health.

Even if occasional, there is also probably a better way, to say nothing of the economic impact, than the disruption of organising and making the visit to your General Practitioner or other clinician to get a relatively simple issue addressed. And for those of us with more complex medical needs, the opportunities for transformation seem truly open-ended, given how little has changed – from the patient’s perspective – since the dawn of the connected phone, the internet and consumer-focused technology more broadly.

As much as human contact is important – looking into the eyes of your doctor inherently reassures and will have certain advantages for the clinician too, there must surely be scope for technology to replace some of this in-person interchange.

The fear of the unknown shouldn’t blind us from the problems of today

We also shouldn’t be too starry-eyed about the current level of interaction we are able to have with doctors. Intermediaries: administrative personnel or other clinical support team are often part of the picture and access and data doesn’t flow flawlessly or without error. The financial and resource pressures on systems across Europe to sustain the existing delivery models will only increase.

There is however a danger; imposing ‘solutions’ on patients. Some of us live with our conditions for decades, and they’re as much part of our daily lives as anything else we do.

Perhaps more than ever, the delivery of healthcare has to become more personalised. Innovations need to be designed and implemented as a partnership, not least if it requires encouraging people to wear or install equipment into their homes. And dare I mention it: for all the opportunities for long term economic opportunities for countries as a whole, there is presumably going to need to be a mature conversation about the up-front investment requirements. Who will pay for the wearable? Who will train the patient?  Somehow populations – clinicians and patients – across Europe and beyond need to have a voice in what they want, and ultimately be prepared to pay as a society.

Let’s discuss on Twitter about the pros and cons of innovation in healthcare – #eHealthChat

With all these thoughts in mind, I am really excited to participate in the live tweet chat on 12 April at 6 pm CET organised by HIMSS Europe and ICT&Health on such an exciting topic in healthcare at the moment: Innovation. We will discuss the pros and cons of innovation, reading different people’s experience with innovation, both the success stories and the challenges which still need to be overcome. Through these conversations we will be able to overcome our fears of the unknown to make innovation a positive reality.

I look forward to talking to you on Twitter! Don’t forget to use the official hashtag #eHealthChat!

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This post was written for, and published by, HIMSS Europe on the 11 March 2016, in the run up to eHealth Week 2016 in Amsterdam. 


When I first became unwell, almost 20 years ago, the specialist told me that dialysis and other clinical care should be managed around my life and not my life around the condition. I loved the philosophy and I aspire to that goal. In so doing I’m prepared to risk a paradox with more self-management to liberate the most burdensome aspects.

As we progress deeper into the 21st century, innovations enabling mobile, remote and other aspects of health tech can provide tools to do this. Reducing the patient in the person is ultimately what it comes down to. Less disruption for ourselves, those we are close to, and to our work.

We now enjoy a much greater access to informed sources and an ability share experiences with fellow patients thanks to the internet. Now we have the emergence of wearable sensors and connected devices in the home, giving us a much richer – and frequent – picture of what is going on with our bodies.

More time living, less time as a patient

Helping us to adjust home treatments will help us avoid hospital visits, and when we really need to go (or communicate with the doctor remotely) we can be alerted. This builds confidence for the patient and the doctor, and results in less disruption.

The good news is that we have already seen progress. A the time home, my dialysis machine had zero capability of recording, let alone feeding back data to the doctor’s 200km away. An outpatient appointment could only deliver a fraction of information and a lot could change between. Solutions now exist. For diabetics, for example, devices provide much more regular readings, adjustment opportunities, and a record for the clinician to review. And there are connected scales, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and smart watches.

But there’s more to do and I’m inpatient! Thankfully the Dutch Ministry of Health, the European Commission and HIMSS Europe organise the eHealth Week 2016 in June which will no doubt deliver the latest solutions and thinking.

Smart interpretations of trends, warnings, and individual tailoring. And perhaps above all: we need to find a way to improve, dramatically, how the data picture is shared in a coherent, legal and helpful fashion with health providers and patients without multiple siloed data streams – a troubling picture already starting to emerge – overbearing the recipient. Fail on this and the data may not be used safely or to its full potential. Furthermore, training, financing and consent are all part of a complex picture that are ultimately probably harder to sort out than the technology itself, to say nothing of the fact that not everybody wishes to have bits of equipment strapped to their bodies.

Personally speaking, addressing these hurdles is worth the end goal. More time living, less time as a patient.

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Official eHealth Week ’16 Press release:


eHealth Week programme announced

  • The Netherlands is amongst the leading countries in eMental Health practice
  • Privacy Code of Conduct to protect mHealth data
  • The added value of Personal Health Records
  • The human aspect of eHealth

3 March 2016, The Hague, Netherlands

Today the Dutch Presidency of the EU Council, the European Commission and HIMSS Europe announced the programme for eHealth Week, an event that will take place from 8 until 10 June in Amsterdam. Experts from across Europe will share best practices, amongst others about eMental Health, the online prevention and treatment of mental health conditions.

The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in eMental Health practice. Two out of three Dutch mental health care institutions apply eMental Health in their care provision and in the communication with patients. According to research from GGZ Netherlands, approximately 100.000 Dutch patients make use of eMental Health. Moreover, between 60 and 70 per cent of Dutch mental healthcare patients are receptive to the idea of eMental Health.

All in all, the programme of eHealth Week will provide a variety of sessions connected to the themes: Empowerment of the People, Trust & Standards and Social Innovations & Transitions. For more information about the programme please click here.

 

How to protect your privacy while using mHealth apps

A Code of Conduct can help App developers are often small companies or individuals and may lack the legal expertise to take complex data protection rules into account and apply them to their mobile health apps. This coincides with the current lack of trust by citizens in these apps as demonstrated by the results of the European Commission’s mHealth Green Paper consultation and other studies.

In order to improve this situation and to help app developers comply with data protection principles, one year ago, the European Commission, together with the industry, launched the development of a Privacy Code of Conduct for mHealth apps. This initiative will be discussed in a dedicated session of the second theme, “Trust & Standards“, where representatives from different sectors will address the latest draft of the Code of Conduct and next steps.

Pēteris Zilgalvis, Head of Unit Health and Well-Being at DG Connect at the European Commission, said: “I am happy that this initiative moved forward so rapidly and I hope that it can soon be presented to the Article 29 Working Party, the independent European working group on data protection. Once approved by them and applied in practice, I believe the Code of Conduct will be a great step towards increased trust in mHealth apps.”

The added value of Personal Health Records

In one of the sessions connected to the “Empowerment of the People” theme, experts will discuss the added value of Personal Health Records and how their use can be integrated and implemented on all levels. For patients with health information and data in multiple places it is difficult to keep track of their medical records. With the use of Personal Health Records patients can collect, track and share information about their health. Improving the ‘information’ position of the patient is a precondition to achieve empowerment and self-management.

“The conversation about Personal Health Records comes at an important time in Europe, where it is common for patients to travel within the continent on a regular basis. How are we all expected to keep track of our records? Can we find common ground? This session will address important eHealth aspects which affect all stakeholders alike and promises to be extremely insightful”, said Christina Roosen, Vice President of Public Affairs at HIMSS Europe.

Ethical aspects of eHealth: do we pay enough attention to the human aspect?

Also featuring in the programme, will be a discussion around the critical technical breakthroughs that are leading to humans to be increasingly replaced by machines, technologies and robots. Replacing human contact and how to deal with these issues when scaling up new initiatives will be the point of focus during one of the sessions connected to the theme “Social innovations & Transitions“. Experts will share opinions and develop practical guidelines for practical initiatives.

-END OF PRESS RELEASE-

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