United4Health’s final conference took place on 19th and 20th January 2016 in Brussels. The two days offered plenty of opportunity for higher-level and policy messages.
Yet, they were also full of real-life experiences shared by the more then ten deployment sites. The sites presented practical experiences on subjects as diverse as stakeholder engagement, patient acceptance, organisational transformation, workforce adoption, health/information technology infrastructure, and electronic health records. It now appears that “Telehealth is here. It is happening!”
To complete the first day of the conference, Prof. George Crooks, United4Health’s project coordinator, introduced United4Health’s three key policy messages around:
• Ensuring a policy environment that promotes and supports telehealth deployment.
• Seeking national consistency with local adaptation.
• Empowering patients, carers and healthcare professionals to take full advantage of eHealth.
He also emphasised the project’s six further recommendations to policy-makers at European level. All of these are available in a succinct United4Health report entitled Upscaling Telehealth – the need for policy engagement.
Throughout its final 18 months of operation, the Assembly of European Regions (AER) has contributed consistently to United4Health’s user policy advisory board. It was therefore one of two associations to comment publicly on project’s key policy messages during the conference.
AER Committee 2 President, Agneta Granström, who also chairs the AER e-he@lth network, supported the United4Health policy messages particularly around the needs for local adaptation and empowerment.
She emphasised the importance of available national, regional and local infrastructure: “We need infrastructure. We need broadband, and we need mobile connectivity.”
To leverage the benefits from constructive initiatives like United4Health, she proposed that: “We now have the opportunity! In Europe, we should take the opportunity to be the frontrunner for eHealth services, outside of hospitals too.”
Continuing linkage of the work of AER with on-going United4Health deployment sites, and regional telehealth activities, is warmly encouraged.
This article was written by Diane Whitehouse, EHTEL