22 May 2019
Enhancing digital health

Technology is breaking lots of barriers in healthcare. Patients assistance has significantly progressed thanks to remote diagnosis, video conferencing, mobile apps and other systems doctors can use to touch base. Many patients are also using wearable technology to monitor any changes in their health – and sharing that data with their physicians. Robot-assisted surgery is sweeping through hospitals to perform delicate and complex procedures, while Artificial Intelligence is supporting advanced diagnosis for cancer and other severe diseases.

However, the ability of people to access digital health services greatly varies from region to region, to one country to another. That’s why the European Commission is promoting the development of a secure system that will enable EU citizens to seamlessly access health applications and data at least across the Member States. The first step – announced at the beginning of February – deals with data integration, setting the goal to provide complete online access to health data wherever people live or move, also granting availability to healthcare professionals for better informed and faster treatment.

Some best practices already exist. For instance, Finnish citizens can buy medicines using their ePrescriptions in Estonia, while Luxembourgish doctors are given access to the summaries of Czech patients. In Italy, people living in Trentino area can take advantage of TreC, a digital platform that allows everyone to collect personal health data, including records, past treatments, allergies or intolerances, and allow access to doctors and laboratory tests. The application is being integrated with new features, with the possibility to book healthcare services and pay for them.

The European Commission’s initiative aims at increasing the quality and continuity of care for citizens, also supporting the efficiency and sustainability of the whole health system. Thanks to greater data availability and exchange, medical research into major health challenges will even be accelerated.

However, digital health is progressing beyond EU borders. A few weeks ago, the World Health Organisation established a new Digital Health Department to steer technological developments and contribute to the attainment of people at the global level. A team of worldwide experts will be working around Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, biomedical innovation, robotic surgery, wearable technologies, blockchain, but also on ethics, governance and security of present and future healthcare systems.


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