The strategic value of advanced electronic Health – or eHealth – in the development of greater European cohesion has been recognised by EU health ministers, who signed an institutional declaration on the occasion of an e-health ministerial conference that took place during e-Health Week 2010 and the World of Health IT Conference and Exhibition on 15-18 March.
This step forward is welcomed by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), which announced on the same occasion a study produced in collaboration with the European Commission, which demonstrates that the introduction of eHealth technologies in large hospitals can improve efficiency, reduce financial costs, and deliver a significant return on investments.
The study shows that since the deployment of the new technology, patients spend significantly less time waiting for treatment, while doctors have increased their available time for direct patient care time by around 40 minutes per day. This improves both patient and staff satisfaction.
The EU is the middle of a healthcare revolution, but while this “‘eHealth” approach is becoming an indispensable aspect of efficient and effective healthcare management in Europe, efforts to consolidate an EU-wide approach have so far been fragmented and experimental. It is estimated that spending on eHealth worldwide stands at only around 2% of healthcare expenditure, yet it has the potential to reduce inefficiencies inherent in the healthcare environment by as much as 25 – 40%.
According to ACCA’s Vice-President Dean Westcott and a senior health sector finance professional in the UK “the European Commission has been instrumental over the past decade in promoting eHealth policies, but reaching a sustained increase in the level of ICT investments now requires the co-operation of all stakeholders in following a realistic strategy for the deployment of e-health technologies”.
The real challenge is indeed the financial commitment from Member States through a coordinated approach to invest in ICT in the health environment.