On 2 October 2012, Health First Europe attended the conference “The electronic health record: transforming Healthcare communications in Europe” at the European Parliament. The event was organised by the Emilia Romagna Region in order to discuss the crucial issue of electronic health management with EU policymakers and representatives of different European regions. MEP Salvatore Caronna and MEP Vittorio Prodi, an HFE Supporter and Member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, co-chaired the conference and provided a brief overview of the topic.
Mr. Jerome Boehm, from the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission, highlighted the significant potential benefits that the deployment of e-health could bring about. The Commission is actively involved in the revision of the legal framework on data protection which is one of the main barriers identified by stakeholders so far. Mr. Boehm concluded his speech by urging Member States to concretely engage in the implementation of the Directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare adopted in March 2011.
Discussing implementation in Member States, Ms. Anna Darchini explained how the Italian Regional Administration of Emilia Romagna has gradually introduced ICT in healthcare services. As of today, all citizens who give their consent have access to their Electronic Health Record (EHR) online. A patient’s EHR contains medical prescriptions and referrals as well as a patient summary. Mr. Mauro Moruzzi, General Manager of C.U.P. Spa, the company who realized the EHR platform in Emilia Romagna, further highlighted how implementation can occur showing the audience how the record can be consulted by citizens online and even via a specific application designed for smart phones. Finally, he emphasised the importance of providing a Help Desk service supporting both patients and doctors using the network.
Following the presentation of concrete initiatives in Emilia Romagna, Ms. Lorenza Badiello, Head of the Representation Office of the Emilia Romagna Region in Brussels, gave the floor to three expert panelists from various Member States. She invited them to clarify how Peter, an imaginary patient who suffered a stroke, would be treated in their respective regions. Mr. Søren Thaulow presented the “Helbredsprofilen” project that has been implemented in the Zealand Region of Denmark. As a user of “Helbredsprofilen.dk”, Peter would be able to decide who can actually monitor his profile. In Zealand a high percentage of retired people have internet access, but convincing them to use the network still represents a challenge for Mr. Thaulow and his colleagues who hope to reach 1500 users by 2013.
As illustrated by Ms Petra Hasselqvist from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, in Sweden patients like Peter have had access to e-prescriptions since 1995. The country has also developed an anti-infection tool – whenever doctors prescribe antibiotics, they fill out a sheet that is part of a national database. This procedure enables the health authorities to get updated information on infections spreading on a national scale.
In Spain, the use of e-prescriptions is rapidly spreading through all regions. Moreover, concrete pilot projects have been implemented by several local communities in the field of EHR. Mr. Gregorio Gomez from the Comundidad Valenciana explained how in his region the protection of patients’ data is safeguarded through the use of electronic signatures for healthcare professionals.
Overall, the speakers agreed that in times of austerity and financial crises, it is of the outmost importance to find solutions that help promote the efficiency of the healthcare systems around Europe. Technology is seen as a tool to improve the efficiency of healthcare but stakeholders feel that some barriers still need to be tackled in order to enable the full deployment of e-health.