Luleå, Norrbotten (S), 20 June 2012
At the invitation of Norrbotten County Council and the Assembly of European Regions (AER), 200 stakeholders in e-health (regional decision-makers, health professionals, patients, companies) came together in Luleå-Norrbotten (S) for the 2012 Arctic Light E-health Conference (ALEC 2012). This was an occasion to evaluate the regions’ progress in implementing e-health since the last ALEC in 2010 and to identify future orientations for regional e-health policies.
The context for implementing e-health remains the same, in terms of the impact of demographic ageing on health and social systems. Compared to 2010, decision-makers have an increasing body of evidence at their disposal that demonstrates the cost-efficiency and overall added-value of innovative e-health policies and tools. E-health is no longer strictly technology-driven; innovation is now increasingly led by what the end users, and in particular the patients, actually need. It is partly as a result of this shift that acceptance of e-health among health professionals and patients has grown.
The impact of the current economic crisis is being felt of course. Limited resources are an additional incentive for regions to implement new and innovative models for care delivery. ALEC 2012 has shown that regions are creative: telemedicine, new organisational models, integrating health and social care are only a few examples of the new ideas that are out there. The challenge now lies in deploying these innovative ideas on a wide-scale and phasing out old solutions that no longer respond to today’s realities.
“Political leadership is the key to rolling out e-health. We need open-minded people in the regions who can take an innovative idea, incorporate it into a regional strategic framework and implement change,” said Agneta Granström, Chairperson of the AER e-he@lth network and County Commissioner of Norrbotten. “The AER e-he@lth network is prepared to implement a leadership programme for regional politicians and demands the EU’s support. If regional decision-makers do not fully grasp the potential offered by e-health, then the EU risks missing the targets and opportunities set out in Europe 2020, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing and the future Cohesion Policy.”
The Assembly of European Regions (AER – aer.eu) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe. Bringing together more than 250 regions from 35 countries and 16 interregional organisations, AER is the political voice of its members and a forum for interregional co-operation.
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