Telehealth, offered in the three countries, means less hospital care and more patient empowerment. Through telehealth patients gain a better understanding of their illness while they have the chance to be treated in their own homes.
Fabienne Abadie, a scientific officer at IPTS, one of the seven scientific institutes of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, stresses: "The Danes have succeeded in deploying telehealth, because all relevant stakeholders have been encouraged to join in. One cannot hope that the market alone can push the use of telehealth into care practice. A good model of governance, at regional or national level, is crucial to support telehealth in order to reap the benefits it offers. In this process, stakeholders such as the health care professionals play a vital role." This is only a snapshot of what the SIMPHS (1) research reveals on best practice with the deployment of telehealth in Europe, and its role in promoting integrated, patient-centred care. Fabienne Abadie also says "While the SIMPHS research has identified encouraging developments in further parts of Europe (e.g. some Spanish and Italian regions) nationwide deployment is still hampered by a number of barriers which the pioneering countries have managed to tackle. There is hope that learning from the best cases will help stimulate EU-wide telehealth deployment."
Not long ago, telehealth was only offered for citizens on small Islands and remote places. Today, Denmark, England and Scotland have revolutionised this historical path by integrating telehealth as a part of the standard treatment. "Telehealth has changed from being geography-driven to being technology-driven. Now we see completely new ways of organising treatments. Telehealth has matured to the point where it could dramatically reduce the numbers of hospital beds by offering telehealth for a wider range of treatments," says Claus F. Nielsen, International Business Development Manager in DELTA, who for more than ten years has played a key role in promoting e-Health in Denmark. Claus continues: "Due to the new era of smartphones and tablets, we can jump directly from the first to the third generation of telehealth. To do so, we need to build "plug'n play ecosystems for data in order push the revolution of smart personal Health devices."
Although telehealth may appear to be technology-driven, Fabienne Abadie underlines the fact that successful telehealth implementation requires much more than smart technology: "Reorganisation of care is even more important as it will account for 80-90% of the changes in care provision. The availability of funding for mainstreaming, an integrated governance model, engaging all stakeholders, and the adaptation of legal frameworks will be further drivers for telehealth deployment," she says "not to mention scientific evidence of the benefits of telehealth which have a great influence on mainstreaming decisions, even if it also includes some form of value judgement", she adds.
A case in point is the monitoring of arrhythmia patients in their own homes using an ECG ePatch. Claus F. Nielsen continues: "we know from our wireless ECG ePatchclinical trial that the Odense University Hospital Svendborg now realise substantial savings by treating patients in their own homes."
"I believe that we will be able to identify many more opportunities for monitoring hospital patients in the comfort of their own homes once we have seen the positive everyday effects and get used to the idea of incorporating it into the way we run our hospital in the future”, says Claus Duedal Pedersen, head consultant, Clinical Innovation, Odense University Hospital.
"What patients want will ultimately also influence the way telehealth develops" adds Fabienne Abadie. With this, she has the outcomes of the SIMPHS Citizen Panel in mind, a survey of 14,000 internet users in 14 EU Member States, which showed that the younger generation uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for wellness and healthy lifestyle purposes and that some middle-aged individuals also use ICT for the same reasons. The middle aged also act as gatekeepers in the household and as a result can help both the elderly and the young to use ICT. Last but not least, the healthier elderly are more likely to request new ICT-based care solutions than those suffering from an illness. "Market players and decision makers alike need to pay attention to the different demands of specific population groups in EU Member States. Raising awareness of the benefits of telehealth and adapting messages to the different user typologies is what will make a difference," she concludes.
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DELTA optimises the application of technology for success in a complex world. We specialise in design, development, test, certification and consultancy in the following areas: Electronics, microelectronics, software technology, light, optics, acoustics, vibration and sensor systems.
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1. Strategic Intelligence Monitor on Personal Health Systems, an EU research project. More information at: http://is.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/TFS/SIMPHS2.html