Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
eHealth – Accelerating Innovation
Conference with KPMG
Brussels, 29 March 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to thank Wouter and his colleagues. And well done to KPMG and the University of Manchester for your report on "Accelerating Innovation: The Power of the Crowd".
It is very valuable. Why? Because it gives us inspiring examples and evidence. Finally we have hard statistics, convincing case studies and a good analysis of success factors.
Building the evidence base is essential to deploying eHealth. Once we have concrete facts and figures, it is much easier to convince others they should take the same road. And it will be easier for them to put their money where their mouth is.
Europe is facing a demographic challenge, we all know the problem. This report provides proof of the solutions. And that we can get there—if we have coordination, cooperation, and courage.
Here's one example from your report: Hong Kong has cut hospital re-admissions by 25 percent! It did this through introducing a basic eHealth registration, hospital admission and risk reduction programme for the elderly. No wonder it will now be extended to all 7 million citizens in Hong Kong.
We are discussing two reports today. The second is an analysis of the Whole Systems Demonstrator in the United Kingdom. This pilot for deploying integrated care and telemedicine targeted some 6000 patients and measured the costs and benefits. Its follow up will involve 50,000, and the UK government has started to scale that up to 3 million. That's 3 million lives more with a lower chance of emergency admission to hospital, and a better chance of survival. One of the lessons to learn here is that success breeds success.
Examples like these should make our politicians and policy makers wake up. Because, at the moment, they are sleeping through a crisis of health and care. They are missing the chance to turn the demographic challenge into an innovation opportunity.
By 2050 Europe will have three times as many people over 80. Many more people will live in institutions for elderly care. And many more disabled people will live at home. Overall, the dependency ratio will jump from 4 to 1 today, to 2 to 1. And even by 2020, there will be a shortage of 2 million carers to look after them all.
These figures are startling. National health and care budgets will grow out of proportion if we do not take action. These reports show how that could be done. The whole systems demonstrator showed spectacular results in quality of life AND cost reduction. So I wonder: when will Ministers of Finance force health systems to change? And how many crises do we need to make the necessary decisions?
And, beyond the government, I ask myself when will health insurers wake up, too? When will they realise that it is time to invest in health? When is venture capital going to discover an attractive new asset class in a rocketing market?
Because the evidence is overwhelming: the benefits of ICT, combined with organisational changes, are a real triple win!.
And this is not just about cost. eHealth can help avoid medical errors, detect health problems early and prevent symptoms emerging in the first place. It is also about quality of care, and about the quality of life of patients: less dependence on care, less hospital waiting time, less time and money spent travelling and more comfort and peace of mind not just for the patient but also for the families and care workers.
For the many elderly people who suffer from chronic diseases, these benefits are particularly meaningful.
ICT can for example ensure that older people take the correct medication. Some estimate that 50% of patients currently do not: leading to health risks and higher costs. But if we use the smart solutions out there, they will yield great benefits for everyone
With these resources, patients and doctors get better outcomes. The elderly can stay more active and independent. Insurers can operate more efficiently. And the taxpayer benefits too.
So you might well wonder, what is the Commission doing? Well, we have set up the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. It aims to turn the challenge of the ageing population into an opportunity.
This is a new stakeholder-driven approach, to link up all the people and programmes out there, to bridge innovation gaps, and to improve innovation conditions.
Overall, we want European citizens to get an extra two years of healthy life in 2020—using smart ICT solutions.
The important thing is getting all stakeholders together. From public and private sectors, from finance and from industry, those who care and those who cure: all of those people meeting each other. That is where ICT, applied with the right organisation and skills, complements the work of health professionals at all levels.
But I don't just want a forum for discussion – I want action and outcomes. Here are three.
First, innovative solutions to prevent falls—a debilitating thing for elderly people that often means they lose independence. But we can mitigate it, through supporting early diagnosis for older people; and that's what we're doing.
Second, promoting successful integrated care models for chronic diseases among the elderly. For example by using remote monitoring
And third, we are getting 30 European regions to work together on innovative ways to ensure patients follow their prescriptions.
Many products and services are already developed. Some of them are in your report, others include those that come from EU-funded projects. But now is the time to replicate and scale up.
How? By taking the lessons of this report to heart. And by breaking through silos by procuring open standards. Because a common language would mean systems can talk to each other – benefiting providers and patients, and helping innovations to scale up.
Our pilot project epSOS is a great example. It develops a practical framework to enable secure access to patient health information, even among different European healthcare systems.
So thank you once again for the evidence and inspiration from your report! In the end, this can lead to a positive revolution to the benefit of all.
I look forward to using KPMG's results and the follow up of the Whole Systems Demonstrator Programme when we come to further develop metrics and methods for the Partnership.
With this evidence, we can impress on policymakers the importance of this task. So that we can empower care providers. And improve the lives of vulnerable, elderly and sick people everywhere.