The case for a formal standardization of eHealth deployment in EU

With the rise of the popularity, diversity and application of eHealth throughout Europe and the world, there is the need for compatibility between eHealth systems (in terms of both software and functionality), as well as a huge potential for market interaction, extensions and integration. In this blog we pull the highlights from the European white paper on Standardization and eHealth market trends.

End October earlier this year, a European Commission funded white paper was released presenting the case for the formal standardization of eHealth deployment at a Europe-wide (and beyond) scale. Interoperability, up-do-date patient information, safety of information transactions and treatments, along with cost efficiency and integrated care tracks are all pressing issues accompanying this initiative.

The principle goals and key concepts of the eHealth standardization

The paper, written in collaboration with the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE) and the European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electro-medical and Healthcare IT Industry (COCIR), amongst others, presents the key concepts and objectives of this initiative as follows:

  • Large-scale eHealth deployment framework

Providing eHealth services at a large scale as an intrinsic part of health management for both individuals and organizations, where typically such a process would reach and connect several organizations and health systems simultaneously

Accordingly, eHealth solutions must have the capacity and capability to serve an entire network

  • Formal standardization

All key stakeholders must be engaged in creating and maintaining a set of standards and definitions that can be used by all applicable parties and regulatory entities

  • Case

Providing supportive information and rational to influence policy makers in making certain decisions/taking certain courses of action, that adhere to their goals and member interests sustainably

  • Standard set

A series of standards and standards artefacts that support a particular use scenario

Tooling and stakeholder identification are central to implementing wide scale eHealth systems

The paper stresses “a need for standards and profiles to support large-scale eHealth deployment in a way that balances cost, quality, and access”.  Regulators and authorities should therefore make commitments to the aforementioned standards sets, as well as ‘tooling’.

Tooling refers to the means of defining, circulating, qualifying and actually applying the standard sets to facilitate a consistent adoption of large scale eHealth implementation.

The project identifies four main stakeholder groups:

  • Citizens, i.e. the consumers of healthcare
  • Workforce, the providers of healthcare
  • eHealth market, where eHealth services and products are traded
  • Health system, the mechanism where care is provided and decisions are made

A pan-European database for medicinal products identification (IDMP)

By 2017 the Joint Initiative Council (JIC) aims to have in effect a standards set to provide the foundation of a Europe-wide medicine database registered with the European Medicines Agency.

The US FDA is applying a similar standardization mechanism, and the ultimate goal would be to make both systems compatible to facilitate cross-boundary e-prescription, as well as providing trading opportunities and simplifying compliance.

The worldwide eHealth market will inevitably continue to grow with the increase of mHealth (mobile health) and advances in communication technologies. When looking at the eHealth market, the consumer market demands are increasing as mHealth solutions are empowering citizens and the end-users desire greater coordination between healthcare providers.

Simultaneously, national health system regulators/authorities seek more consistent and efficient care paths, where eHealth platforms and the streamlining of communication become more and more crucial.

TforG estimated that the worldwide eHealth market is worth €80.5 bn. It will grow by approximately 15% each year in the coming 3 years. The eHealth industry behind the market is forecasted to grow by almost 30% in the coming years.

EHealth is a diverse field highly sought after in both highly as well as lesser developed nations.

Barriers to the growth and use of eHealth systems include the concern for data privacy and other security issues that would enable unfair competitive practices (when considering the realm of medical device and pharmaceutical registration procedures, or referral systems and reimbursement schemes) .

The most popular eHealth products include:

  • E-prescription
  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) –over 20% of the current market value
  • Health information systems
  • Decision support platforms
  • mHealth
  • Telemedicine

Proposal to create new markets for health and IT services

With the advance of widespread eHealth management systems at national and or even European levels, there will be a demand for big data, collection and extraction services, clean-up programs, and the aforementioned need for IT (health-related) standardization.

The white paper acknowledges that standardization could interfere with the development of interfaces; accordingly, there is a great opportunity for program/interface integrators who can link existing systems and create bridges to future eHealth services.

An established and strong market place will also push quality, improve price competitiveness and enhance the product range available for selection to eHealth implementers.

To learn more about mobile technology please have a look at one of our previous articles on Mobile Health Technology.

For further quantitative and qualitative information on various European and worldwide healthcare system and their macroeconomic climates, healthcare and hospital trends, please look into our Business intelligence platform containing volumes of 1000 surgical procedures in 13 specialisms, or consult a TforG Deep Dive report of the country of your interest.

About Laura Weynants

Performs primary and secondary market research to create country reports at TforG. Interviews KOLs and medical sector professionals to build on TforG’s healthcare market expertise and competence networks. Complementing five years of sustainability policy and CSR communication, she now focuses on grasping key medical market trends, structures and opportunities in medical sectors worldwide. Coming from an international background of living in Germany, Spain, USA, UK and Belgium, she has gained a keen insight in international organizations and language skills to perform first hand investigations. She graduated from Sussex University Brighton, UK with a BA English Literature and Sociology and achieved a Master Degree in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility in EOI Business School in Madrid, Spain.