Over a three days period, 39 institutions, regional healthcare systems and decision makers have come together for the eHealth Exhibition 2006 to collaborate on matters of ICT technologies and the interoperability of European healthcare systems. The fair is composed of two parts, the European eHealth Industry Forum and the Strategic Regional Forum. Presenters from both groups share current tools designed to merge health and technology. Emphasis is places on creating a better quality of life and awareness to patients, healthcare providers and citizens. The conference affords companies and healthcare implementers to exchange and address various issues related to eHealth devices and applications.
Overall the exhibition focuses on several common eHealth goals. Speakers stress the importance in merging advanced technology and medicine to streamline current healthcare practices. Several European countries and regions throughout Spain have already begun implementing tools, such as eCards, interactive modules and web-based patient records, in an effort to accomplish these goals.
Furthermore, various devices are displayed which empower patients to self-teach, self-diagnosis and self-treat from the comfort of their own home. The forum also addresses noting short-term failures and successes as a means to prepare and improve long-term strategies. Both decision makers and industries focus on systems and tools, which foster prevention, in order to reduce needs for treatment and therefore reducing medical costs. Another common theme is the need to eliminate paperwork in order to decrease room for medical error and increase efficiency.
Booths of 12 countries and 14 Spanish regions comprise the Strategic Regional Forum. Decision makers on behalf of regional healthcare systems share current applications of eHealth technologies and plans within their communities. Presenters propose means for bridging gaps and enhancing knowledge between health-care providers, physicians and patients. Furthermore, speakers share individual regional successes and exchange methods to create a medically unified Europe.
The European Commission’s booth, one of the exhibition co-organizers, provides information regarding their two part plan to effectively utilize eHealth technologies. Policies on medical information, communication technology and public health and consumer protection are also provided. Mr. Gerard Comyn, head of the European Union’s ICT for health unit explains the need to collaborate with new member states to piece together citizens' health history into one functioning system. “Our organization must act as a catalyst to gather information and define steps and strategies to meet state needs. We must operate to find a common structure which accounts for different cultures and definitions,” said Comyn. Various publications and proposals also explain the Commissions recommendations to establish interoperability throughout Europe, outline safety concerns for creating a unified healthcare system, and create preventative, person-centered health systems.
Other co-organizer’s, such as The Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs and The Spanish Regional Ministry of Health of Andalucia, also share initiatives which aim to achieve interoperability within the Spanish National Health System. The Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs exhibition presents information on the Drinking Water Information System (ALDAGUA), a web application that monitors and analyzes stored water quality. The Regional Ministry of Health of Andalucia exhibits programs focusing on citizens, professionals and organizations. The Diraya project, Andalucia’s main eHealth project, offers citizens opportunities to manage their own medical needs through primary care booking on-line. The program, established three years ago, already attends to 60 to 70 percent of the region’s population. Diego Granado, information technician for Diraya comments, “We are very proud of the programs current success and results. Diraya hopes to utilize feedback and ideas expressed during the conference to continue this success in the future”.
The final of the four co-organizers, the Austrian healthcare sponsors give information on the e-card project and plans for future developments. The exhibition includes national and regional health institutions, the Austrian Social Insurance, along with researchers and companies working towards expanding the e-card project. Representatives for the Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine (NST) explain programs such as Healthcare@Home, geared towards facilitating the elderly, and representatives demonstrate eHealth tools to Empower, a diabetes self-management system aimed at children and their parents.
Throughout the exhibition, hopes for the future of eHealth programs and advanced technologies are high. Company representatives and decision makers alike continue to praise the possibilities afforded by the eHealth Conference and the enhanced probability in collaboration between healthcare implementors and industries.