With its many years working on e-health and social innovation technologies, AER is recognised as leader in the field. Today, let’s go a few years back and look at everything AER has achieved from the creation of its E-health network in 2006 to its longstanding cooperation with ALEC.
E-health political breakthroughs
E-health can be defined as a set of IT tools used to meet the needs of citizens and patients as well as healthcare professionals, service providers, local authorities and national governments in the field of health.
It is of great political interest as it represents an innovative way to deliver health services, in particular in remote rural areas and to people with mobility difficulties. E-health is seen as an alternative in order to release scarce labour and infrastructure resources. Nowadays, 80% of financing in the health sector is assigned to human resources with around 75% coming directly from public funding. According to the European Commission, 17,5 million people are employed as administrative staff in the medical field, representing 9,3% workers in Europe. In that sense, e-health is determinant to optimise health administration and increase productivity in the sector.
Moreover, E-health is an essential tool for the modernisation of health services in Europe. This, in light of ever-decreasing health budgets and the increasing demands on health systems resulting from demographic changes. Innovation in the health system will with no doubt improve the exchange of information and good practice among healthcare actors and raise awareness on health widely! E-health services are particularly compelling to its usage in preventive health care as well as distance mental health treatments. Thanks to all the above, e-health is a major instrument in improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare services for patients.
Regarding economics and businesses, e-health is a sector with a significant growth potential: touching up-and-coming areas such as technologies, engineering and innovation. Besides, ICT research and development can effectively contribute to regional and EU economic growth.
E-health Network, a life story
AER E-health network was created in 2006. Its meaning was first to identify priority political areas in e-health and to develop joint cooperation projects for regions. The exchange of experience and good practice between regions is also a clear focus for the group.
Therefore, the aim of the network is to create a platform where regions can engage in interregional cooperation projects to develop e-health tools and where they can contribute to European policies on e-health. It brings together member regions interested in developing policies in this field, but also external organisations who focus on the development of e-health technologies. The network is fully open to AER member regions that are either already active in e-health or want to develop e-health policies and tools.
Focus areas include: e-diagnosis, research for available e-health resources, record keeping systems, distance planning, active and independent living for the elderly, mental health and e-health as a planning tool for health and social systems.
The network especially works on:
- Raising awareness and disseminating knowledge on the potential of e-health
- Gathering information on existing tools, funding and policies and carry out studies
- Together with other regions and partners in coordinating our e-health tools and strategies
- Stimulating the development of products and services for the commercial market
- Encouraging research and education in the e-health sector
It organises thematic meetings and several conferences a year to make sure regions fully benefit from other’s experience and good practice to learn everything there is to know about e-health and improve regional systems.
First round for the E-health network
From 2006, the network organised several seminars to exchange experience and start discussing potential interregional cooperation projects. Later that year, the ‘E-health: around the clock care for everyone, everywhere‘ conference was launched in Norbotten. It was the occasion to sharpen key fields of action, choosing to especially discuss e-health as a tool for service delivery, sharing patient information, prevention and dissemination of information. The harmonisation of regional systems and infrastructures as well as creating partnerships with other sectors were also a fundamental feature of the conference.
Following the conference, the network made it its priority to improve the delivery of health services, modernise these services in order to make them financially sustainable and improve access to health services, in particular in rural or remote areas.
In 2007, during a seminar held in Brussels region made their first proposals for e-health cooperation project. AER also actively participated in ‘The World of IT Health’ Conference, in Vienna to exchange observations on interoperable health systems as well as the legal and regulatory framework for e-health in Europe.
2008 was under the sign of promoting cross-border cooperation in e-health and facilitating exchange of e-health professionals. With the hit of the financial crisis, the group profoundly discussed european developments and funding opportunities. New focus subjects were brought to the table such as medical data privacy & protection as well as chronic disease management.
Building a strong link with e-health businesses
AER plays an active part in bringing together SMEs active in ehealth, regional authorities and the end users (patients’, youth and seniors’ associations). The aim is to bring all actors in the ehealth chain together to identify the future priorities in ehealth and to create synergies between them for the development and implementation of the necessary tools and policies.
Different approaches were tested to create a discussion forum for eHealth end users, buyers and developers. Finally a slack channel was successfully developed where all members are free to join. AER also help in facilitating the creation of a regional SMEs network on ehealth across Europe while encouraging the creation of strong trans-border partnerships between businesses involved in the health services.
A multi-stakeholder approach in need of clear leadership
In that sense, AER has always promoted a multi-stakeholder approach to develop innovation in the health sector, involving healthcare professionals, patients, end-users, businesses and industry. The network strongly encourages the exchange of knowledge and experience between all actors as well as e-awareness. This perspective was reinforced from 2010, with AER collaboration with EHTEL to stimulate crossborder cooperation in e-health.
From there, the e-health network recognized that e-health was not only a matter of technology and technics but lacks a clear leadership in the field. Since then, it has hardly worked to highlight the valuable role of regions in maintaining their citizens health. AER worked close with ETHEL in order to develop a programme to train regional representatives to the high stakes of e-health. AER’s strategy was to build capacity and leadership by following the “Learning by doing” principle and develop interregional cooperation projects through the INTERREG agenda. That way building relations to voice the regions’ demands. Such a project is still under development, identifying challenges, targeting sustainable investments and working to change mentalities.
AER representing member regions interest through the European Commission
AER launched several partnerships with the European Commission. Together, they organised several events, along with the support of the committee of regions.
One of the most significant collaboration involves the AHAIP initiatives in 2011, the “Active and Healthy Ageing Innovation Partnership“. The programme results in a pilot action designed to improve patients’ health and quality of life and the health administration’s efficiency, as well as supporting the elderly by granting them better quality services. The aim is to bring together actors at all levels and sectors to mobilise available resources and expertise. Once again, it encourages variety of stakeholders to work together while stimulating innovation and capacity. AER wants to make Europe a global leader in e-health, that according to her should be sustainable, an integral part of regional planning process and a priority among regional politicians.
Invited by the European Commission, the AER E-health network organised a workshop to showcase regional expertise in the e-health field. This event took place in the framework of the e-health week in Budapest, a major conference that gathered politicians, health administrators, researchers and industries in order to discuss future priorities for e-health. The forum’s participants emphasised the major role played by regions in the deployment of personal e-health solutions by highlighting the progress achieved for chronic pathologies such as diabetes, cardio-vascular and obstructive pulmonary diseases. The aim of this session was to identify the steps that need to be taken to link the various regional initiatives across Europe today and achieve the AER e- he@lth network’s vision: dropping the ‘e’ from ‘e-health’, plus, what needs to be done to achieve Europe-wide deployment of e-health.
Longstanding partnership – ALEC
Since 2010, AER developed strong links with the Artic Light E-health Conference. ALEC is a captivating event uniting digital health professionals from across the globe meet in the arctic region of Norrbotten for two days of inspiration, networking and skill development. The event is hosted by the President of AER Committee 2, Ms Agneta Granström who is also the Chair of the AER e-health network.
Each year AER members are invited to participate in a great panel of events on e-health, including study visits. ALEC enables all stakeholders discuss digital’s potential to bridge health gaps, and develop tools to design better health for all. Past conferences have included key aspects of e-health sought to address both the technical and organisational aspects affecting the patient’s experience. Participants discuss sustainable e-health (social, environmental & economical),independent living and prevention. Together they exchange on european perspectives, best practices, cross border services and identify challenges.
Last year the 5th Arctic Light e-Health Conference was held in Sweden.
Speeding up actions
From 2016, AER became a true leader in E-health good practice event, multiplying opportunities for its regions.
AER members met with Representatives from the industry, academy and institution will meet up in Budapest (HU) for the international 360° Summit on eHealth. Together they discussed quality healthcare provisioning in Europe, a major issue for the EU healthcare systems. In deed, the population growth and the increasing number of chronic patients is creating a strong budgetary pressure on governments. AER provided concrete actions to face this challenge within its Committees, favouring a dialogue among health, innovation, enterprises and social policies.
Besides, AER actively joined in “E-health: let’s find a common language” event hosted by Brussels Capital at the Committee of the Regions. The event aimed at providing participants with information on funding opportunities in the field of healthcare, new connections, tested ideas to improve communication between stakeholders, inspiration and mutual understanding. AER wants to show increase collaboration and improve communication among stakeholders, beginning at the regional level. This event successfully managed to bring together companies and organisations working on e-health via group discussions, enhancing the participation and the exchange of ideas.