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Neelie Kroes

Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Active and healthy ageing: from strategy to implementation

European Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing conference

Brussels, 3 April 2012

Ladies and gentlemen

This is an important moment for the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Last November the Steering Group did its work and published its Strategic Implementation Plan. A month ago the Commission published a Communication with its own plans. Now it's time to move to the next step: from strategy to implementation, from plan to action.

Your commitment is key! Because without you, the Plan would just be a pile of documents. The reference sites would be empty. And – what's worse - many people would not get the care and cure and independent living they deserve.

We all know Europe is facing a demographic challenge. It threatens our economic equilibrium, and cutting the money available for pensions, health and care. It puts pressure on the institutions dealing with the growing numbers of older people, long term patients and people with disabilities. And finally, it will undermine our quality of life.

We can't solve this challenge by thinking small, by cutting a few corners here and tinkering with a few budgets. We need a whole new way of operating, to turn this into an opportunity, to turn costs into investments.

Smart innovation with ICT can help.

It can keep people out of hospitals and institutions. It can remove the walls of paperwork that separate doctors and carers from patients. Moreover, we do not need to invent or develop it: it's there. The technology exists. This is no longer the issue. It's about culture, organisation, legal frameworks, reimbursement, and so on.

We also do not need more proof of concept. There is so much evidence already. Take the UK project on the Whole System Demonstrator. By deploying telehealth and telecare, tariff costs decreased by 8%, bed days by 14%, emergency admissions by 20%; and most amazingly, death rates fell by 45%! The UK government is now convinced and will scale up this experiment to involve 50.000 patients, and move from there to the nationwide '3 million lives' campaign.

And the UK is not a stand alone case.

Many EU Member States and regions are developing telehealth and integrated care solutions. I am happy to welcome a number of you here today. But we need more, and we need it faster. Let's build the critical mass for change.

What can you expect from the Commission?

We will continue to lead the drive for change in health and social care; and will provide a framework for new collaborative initiatives. We sent out Invitations to seek your concrete commitment to our selected actions; as company, civil society organisation or as Reference Site.

The EIP provides a context for seeking partners and sharing ideas, questions, offers and comments. To enable this we've set up a digital community platform for you. We will also align spending programmes and build a monitoring and assessment framework for the EIP actions. That should give us operational data on effectiveness of EIP actions and the evidence to convince others to join in.

And finally, in November 2012 we will have a general Conference of Partners to look back and decide how we continue.

Meanwhile we will work on the regulatory framework: legislative issues; standardisation; a robust evidence base; exchanging good practices; and aligning our funding instruments.

And let's remember what this is all for.

It's about people.

People living better lives: healthier, in their own home, in their own social environment, still active and independent and taking part in our wider world.

It's also about our economy: controlling rising healthcare costs and creating new business opportunities. Just think of the benefits for patients, doctors, industry, and taxpayers.

So that makes me wonder: What are so many governments, municipalities, regions, and insurers waiting for? Why do they cling to old institutions and systems, instead of working for better care at a lower price? Why are Finance Ministries sitting by while they incur this huge opportunity cost? The results are there, the facts speak for themselves.

But let's not wait till others wake up before making this EIP a success.

Let's start today!

I count on your commitment and you can count on ours!

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