EU Commission champions ‘mHealth’ for chronic disease treatment

Tonio Borg

Tonio Borg speaking at the European Parliament. [European Parliament/Flickr]

In a drive to cut healthcare costs, the European Commission is promoting eHealth, and mHealth applications, notably in treating chronic diseases. EURACTIV France reports.

Tonio Borg, the European Commissioner for Health, called for a better use of technological resources in the health sector.

Speaking at the eHealth Forum 2014 in Athens (12-14 May), he said telemedicine, digital prescriptions (or ePrescriptions) and healthcare apps on mobile phones, are all tools that can further eHealth.

Better monitoring

eHealth gives patients more options, including mobile connectivity in healthcare (mHealth) which can play a key role in monitoring chronic diseases.

Mobiguide is one example of mHealth. It is one of the four projects funded by the EU that aims to develop an intelligent decision-support system for patients with chronic illnesses. The trial version is especially tailored for people suffering from heart diseases (high blood pressure, cardiac dysrhythmia), but also diabetes.

The patients wear sensors that can monitor biosignals (for example, heart rate, blood pressure). The data is collected on the patient’s smartphone and sent to a central computer which provides advice based on the patient’s historical clinical data. The MobiGuide decision-support tools send the patient recommendations on lifestyle changes or contact details of care providers.

Tonio Borg says the project promotes better healthcare quality and increases the independence of those suffering from chronic illnesses.

“mHealth has great potential to empower citizens to manage their own health and stay healthy longer, to trigger greater quality of care and comfort for patients and to assist health professionals in their work,” said the health Commissioner.

Although this type of mobile application is aimed at the whole society, elderly people could particularly benefit from technological advances.

“In the Emilia Romagna region in Northern Italy, a web app helps to improve medication uptake for older people with chronic diseases,” he said.

“A system of ePrescriptions will gather historical clinical data for each patient. This would prevent useless prescriptions and counter-indications. It would also provide treatment continuity to patients across different EU states,” he continued.

Economic savings

eHealth could put an end to certain kinds of hospital visits. Its ultimate goal is greater prevention and earlier treatment of chronic illnesses, a better care system and financial savings.

Tonio Borg believes that Greece has been exemplary, notably in establishing ePrescription, a digital prescription system. Introduced back in 2010, it is now used by 98% of Greek pharmacies and 90% of doctors.

“The Greek prescription system is a success story. It led to greater transparency and consequent savings,” claimed Tonio Borg.

According to the Vice-President of the Commission, Neelie Kroes, eHealth in Italy has led to €1 savings for every €9 spent in medical procedures. 

In 2012, the Commission published the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, which emphasised the potential applications of mobile connectivity healthcare (mHealth). According to the Commission, it is a leading market which could complete traditional health systems.

The eHealth Forum 2014 took place in Athens from 12-14 May 2014 and welcomed the Vice-President of the Commission, Neelie Kroes, the Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, and the Greek Minister for Health, Adonis Georgiadis.

  • By the end of 2014: Declaration of next steps in adopting mHealth.?

European Commission

eHealth Forum

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