Many constraints limit use of modern technology in healthcare

23rd February 2016

Modern information and communication technologies have the potential to improve care, but there are important constraints that reduce the impact of innovation, says the European Society of Cardiology in a new position statement on e-health.

The organisation, which represents 70,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean, says that health care professionals and politicians view the many aspects of e-health as able to improve care and quality of life, particularly at a time of reduced funding.

And patients, who are increasingly familiar with these technologies, expect to find them supporting modern healthcare, enabling a more personal and person centred approach at the right time and the right place.

However, there are important societal and professional constraints that reduce the impact of such innovation, including legal, ethical, and data protection issues, say the ESC.

In the statement, the ESC highlights lack of awareness of and confidence in e-health, a shortage of large-scale evidence of the cost-effectiveness, questions about health and well-being apps, openness about the use of data and regional differences in accessing ICT services, with limited access in deprived areas.

The statement also talks about some healthcare professionals being resistant to such innovation, particularly if the technologies are considered to be 'solutions seeking a problem' and where the evidence for the impact on quality of care is less than robust.

Ensuring proper integration of new technologies into healthcare is often difficult, requiring process redesign or disruption. Regulatory bodies, reimbursement authorities, and national and international political bodies often find it difficult to react quickly, or consistently, to rapid change, the ESC says.

The European Union has an e-health action plan for 2012–2020, which states that the promise of ICT to increase efficiency, improve quality of life, and unlock innovation in health markets remains largely unfulfilled.

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