Written by Nicole Scholz,
Digital health is high on the European and international agenda in June 2016, notably during eHealth Week from 8 to 10 June in Amsterdam, at the eHealth360°Summit from 14 to 16 June in Budapest and at the Digital Health World Congress on 22 and 23 June in London.
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A wide-ranging concept…
‘Digital health’, an umbrella term pointing towards healthcare’s digital future, has been described as ‘the convergence of the digital and genomic revolutions with health, healthcare, living and society’. Digital health encompasses areas such as eHealth and mobile health (mHealth); telehealth and telemedicine; health information technology (IT); wearable devices; and personalised medicine, including genomics. Interested parties use digital health in an effort to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs, increase quality and make medicine more personalised for patients.
… highlighted by recent and upcoming events
The European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) workshop on ‘eHealth in Europe’, held in December 2015 in Brussels, addressed scaling up eHealth services and challenges for their deployment. Affiliated with the workshop was the January 2016 Joint Digital Healthcare Symposium, which showcased patient experiences with the United4Health telehealth project, and laid out the implications of the Internet of Things (IoT) for the next generation of healthcare. At the eHealth Summit in January in Brussels, stakeholders discussed ways to overcome the barriers to better integrated care. The topics of the Digital Health and Wellness Summit, organised as part of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, included the IoT, remote monitoring and connected living, with sessions specifically dedicated to start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and investors.
The three themes of this year’s eHealth Week from 8 to 10 June in Amsterdam, co-organised by the Dutch EU Presidency and the European Commission, are Empowering People, Trust and Standards, and Social Innovation and Transition, mirroring the shift in focus of eHealth policy to users. The eHealth360° Summit in Budapest from 14 to 16 June, organised with the patronage of the European Commission, will feature, among other things, wearables in healthcare; mobile medical multimedia technologies; IoT-based ambient assisted living for older adults; and ‘personal, pervasive and mobile health’ – innovative technologies to empower people in well-being, disease prevention and chronic-disease management. Finally, the Digital Health World Congress on 22 and 23 June in London will be about the transformative potential of digital health in the global healthcare industry; the digital health ecosystem; the Internet of Medical Things; Big Data; investing in the digital health market; health insurance; and digital health solutions in healthcare and disease research.
… promoted through EU projects and initiatives
The EU financially supports many projects in the field of information and communications technology (ICT) for health and wellbeing. Ongoing projects financed under the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and technological development include, to name but a few, Desiree, an information management system for breast cancer; AlterEgo, which enhances social interaction with avatars and robots to help patients suffering from schizophrenia, autism and other social phobias; and Help4Mood, providing computerised support for the treatment of patients with major depression. Among the current EU mHealth initiatives are an industry-led privacy code of conduct for mobile health apps; mHealth assessment guidelines; and support for web entrepreneurs, in particular those under Startup Europe and those included in the Digital Single Market Strategy. In this context, the EU eHealth Competition 2016 on 9 June will reward the best eHealth/mHealth solutions produced by SMEs to give them visibility and marketing opportunities.
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