eHealth needs alignment with health policy

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“Whoever runs an eHealth project should be keenly aware of broader health-policy strategies that governments all over Europe pursue in tough economic times like these”, said Josep Figueras, Director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies at the WHO European Centre for Health Policy. Such broader health-policy strategies include rationalizing hospital or specialist services, strengthening primary and integrated care, cost containment, skill-mix optimization, improving quality and guidelines, and trying to rebalance prevention and cure.


No success without eHealth solutions


Implementing eHealth solutions could contribute to the success of many of these health-policy objectives, according to Figueras. In particular when it comes to enhancing integrated care, there can be no success without eHealth solutions that connect the different sectors and make information available for all care providers in the integration scenario.


Thanks to care data being made transparent, eHealth solutions can also help to realize pay-for-performance reimbursement schemes. They can improve quality of care by contributing to guideline adherence and assist medical professionals in care scenarios that are based on interdisciplinary teamwork between ambulatory nurses and doctors, for example.


Implementation of health policy goals varies


But Figueras had a warning, too: One size won’t automatically fit all. Although overarching health policy goals are similar in many places, how they are implemented varies hugely from country to country and even within countries. And different financing systems mean that reasonable incentives in one country are not necessarily similar to those in other countries.


“For eHealth solutions, all this means that they have to be able to adapt”, said Figueras. To talk about costs is inevitable: “To be accepted by health-policy leaders, eHealth solutions have to demonstrate that they either reduce costs or are cost effective. We need to strengthen the economic case, and we should prioritize introduction strategies by concentrating on low-hanging fruits.”

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