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Lessons learned from the Symposium "eHealth in Europe's Regions: Acting for Citizens’ Health"

The Symposium “eHealth in Europe's Regions: Acting for Citizens’ Health” provided a platform for regions all over the continent to share experiences on promoting health and welfare, on the deployment of eHealth services and on the organisation of healthcare with the aid of information and communication technologies.

The Symposium was jointly organised by EHTEL with the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and the European Regional and Local Health Authorities (EUREGHA). It was hosted at the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussels. The Symposium programme was kindly supported by 37 high level speakers and attended by 170 participants among which were representative of 42 Regions from 22 countries.

The organisers, EHTEL, AER and EUREGHA, would like to honour all the inspiring contributions by speakers, panellists and the audience by conveying the below thoughts as lessons learned at the Symposium:

  • Healthcare is always a local issue, i.e. the delivery will always take place in a local or regional setting. Appropriately, Regions enjoy in many Member States at least some level of autonomy in the administration of healthcare, and they have a crucial role for health promotion. So, both from a European and from a regional perspective, it is crucial to better focus on the regions, if deciding on strategies for healthcare.
  • While there are many good initiatives at the top-level, we need to re-connect to the basics: as smaller administrative units, regions can respond quicker and with greater flexibility to the healthcare demands of their citizens.
  • Regions can play – and many play already– an essential role in the deployment of innovation. Some examples can be found online at http://www.ehtel.eu/symposium2010. Thus innovation in health care should be better distributed between the European, National and Regional agendas. This would also help to ensure that eHealth solutions are driven more by user needs than by technology.
  • Success of deployments is linked to the support by regional stakeholders for health. The regional level also facilitates early involvement of healthcare stakeholders in the planning and development stage.
  • Telehealth strategies can also help the Regions to ensure sustainable healthcare in times of increasing demands by the elderly and the chronically ill, while facing at the same time severe constraints for financial and work force resources.
  • Regional telehealth strategies adopt a multichannel approach to be as close as possible to their citizens and deprived communities. Technical channels should include Internet, smart phones and other advanced equipment as well as what already exists in the homes, e.g. telephone and television.

Conclusions

Regions, as health and welfare pioneers, are needed for:

  • A patient-driven, flexible and technology-assisted healthcare system.
  • Customer-centricity, i.e. the solutions, processes and products created should be user-friendly, motivational and easily transferable to different environments and needs.
  • Prevention of chronic conditions and upgrading the patient-caregiver roles.
  • Promoting good health and increasing self-care by redefining the value chain of healthcare, i.e. an evolution of roles in the entire public-private health care chain and its customers.

Regional and local networking and sharing should:

  • Facilitate the regional and local level initiatives, give a momentum to benchmark with EU initiatives and enable all initiatives to learn from one another;
  • Allow a holistic view and support the efforts for community-based approaches of eHealth deployment.

The organisers expect that Regions will increasingly deploy eHealth services in support of sustainable strategies to maintain their citizens’ health and welfare.

Regions across Europe should communicate and join forces to develop long-term strategies for eHealth deployment. The strategies should be driven by Involvement, Innovation and Integration (the "3 I").

Europe and the European Innovation Partnership in particular, should adopt an approach that incorporate the idea that many Regions are health and welfare pioneers, i.e. decision-makers, active researchers and experimenters who are trail blazing new solutions for the future for the benefit of all.

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