Another year and another ‘action plan’ from the European Commission opened this year’s World of Health IT in Budapest, Hungary. Although the EC has clearly stated its aims for European eHealth before, including the target for fully interoperable electronic health records for all by 2015, at last year’s WoHIT there seemed to be a little more buzz that this could really be achieved.
This year when Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda announced that a (another) new action plan for eHealth would be launched at the end of the 2011 there was a slight sense of ‘we’ve heard it all before.’
While Kroes noted some interesting achievements that had been made by individual countries such as Denmark, with its health data network providing communication between patients and healthcare professionals, as well as NHS Direct’s services in the UK in reducing unnecessary appointments, there was little to be told of Europe wide integration.
Perhaps more is going on behind the scenes, as one the organisations tasked with supporting the vision of sharing information across country borders, Smart Open Services for European Patients (EPSOS) stand, had a continuous stream of delegates showing interest.
But at the moment it’s difficult to believe such a target can really be met, when only a handful of the 20 EU countries involved have managed to provide EHRs at a national or even regional level. Perhaps that should be the priority before this vision can really become a reality.
Outside of the ministerial conference, interoperability once again dominated many of the WoHIT sessions and exhibitor stands. However, there was a clear theme of putting patients at the heart of their care, a theme that has been resounding throughout UK conferences for some time now.
Even some of the healthcare and traditionally non-healthcare giants clearly don’t want to miss the boat. CSC launched its eMedlink telehealth solution, while T-Mobile showcased its telehealth devices, which are plugged directly into the iPhone to give consumers constant access to their vital statistics.
But despite numerous product launches and a busy conference hall, numbers were down on last year, with 25% less exhibitors taking stands and around 300 less delegates than at WoHIT’s Mediterranean venue in Barcelona, with the notable absence of some previous attendees such as Alert Life Sciences and iSOFT.
But preparations are already well underway for next year’s event in Copenhagen, where more than 4000 delegates are expected, and rumour has it then that the year after the UK will finally get its shot.