Enabling tailored care in the right place.
According to World Health Organization, E-health is defined as the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health purposes. As such it is also acknowledged that digital technologies have the potential to play an important role in improving public health.
E-health covers a wide scope of applications ranging from ambulatory monitoring, coaching and even treatment of diseases. A characteristic of E-health is that it enables the shift of standard care that would normally take place in the hospital setting to a for the patient more trusted or comfortable environment.
The essence of E-Health is that it should enable patients to gain more control over their own health. When patients take an active role in their care process, they become less dependent of measurement or treatment from a doctor, hospital or any other instance, which leads to better outcomes.
Some examples of successfully implemented E-Health applications are:
E-consults: patients get in contact with their health practitioner through a secure video connection. By using such solutions, the patient is not required to be physically present at the hospital.
Tele-monitoring: by combining the ambulatory systems described previously in section. 3.8 with a secure way of sharing the data with the health institutions it becomes possible to treat patients with chronic diseases such as heart failure or COPD. The patient is responsible for taking their own measurements. As long as the measured values remain within thresholds as set by the specialist, there is no need for the patients to return to the hospital on a regular basis. When measured values go beyond the set thresholds, the treating physician is alarmed and contacts the patient. This way of working leads to reduction of control visits, ambulance trips and nursing days.
Medication dispensers: in the form of a device that takes care of automatic administration of medicines at the right moment, combinations and dose. This contributes to the reduction of health risks associated with medication errors, especially when related to complex medication schedules.
e-Mental Health: the patient is enabled to get directly in contact with his/her coach or psychologist through an app during episodes of depression or fear. In addition, the app also keeps tracks of the usage of the phone, activity and locations. By combining these inputs with questions to the patients, an algorithm learns to recognize patterns of situations under which patients are at higher risks.
Ambulatory physiotherapy: by combining virtual reality with apps, physiotherapist can prescribe VR treatment sessions to their patients. The app provides the patient with exercises to help them recover in their own environment and when suitable for them. Examples are the treatment of cervical problems, by using a VR headset the range of motion of injured neck or shoulders is slowly increased during several sessions.
The biggest positive effect of E-health applications is expected to be in the following areas:
Time and costs saving: this can be achieved by allowing patients to plan their own consults and it is no longer required for them to be physically present at the hospital.
Insights in own health: by making use of portals to manage the health records, patients get more engaged with their own treatment. Besides this, it allows patients to selectively share their data with the different care givers, which leads to faster and more tailored treatments.
Living longer at home: E-health enables people to live longer and independently at home which at the end leads to costs savings.
Less administrative tasks: E-health can help in reducing de administrative burden to the care givers, allowing more time for contact with patients and easier sharing of electronic records among specialists.
Relevance for the Electronic Components and Systems (ECS) industry
The relevance of E-health for the ECS industry is very similar to the one of the ambulatory monitoring setting described in Section 3.8, especially because the same type of sensors and technologies are used to gather, process and transfer data.
The ECS industry is a key player in the enabling and upscaling of E-health applications. The biggest challenge nowadays for E-health applications is reaching such a level of interoperability that patient and different care givers involved in the chain can work in an optimized way. The ECS industry should work in close collaboration with the different stake holders in the health care system on several layers:
Governance: arranging the proper agreements upfront. E-health is not limited to the delivery of a system/sensor. Most applications deliver a service in the form of software where several health institutions may be involved in the chain of care.
Processes: moving care from the hospital setting to ambulatory settings also asks for a different way of working. Think about the co-development of new standards or guidelines for specific diseases.
Information: adapting a standardized way of sharing information among care givers.
Applications: the development of the solutions that help in reducing costs while at the same time improve use friendliness.
Infrastructure: some E-health application might require infrastructural adaptions to either the hospital centres or the E-health site. Examples are secure internet connections in the case of tele consulting or new water systems and electricity for home dialysis.
Data protection: ensuring the availability, exclusivity and integrity of all sorts of information collected, processed and transferred by the E-Health application.
Guidelines and legislations: proactively monitor developments in international standards and changes in legislations in order to reduce the time required to develop E-Health applications.
Enabling technology platforms
The enabling technology platforms for E-Health are almost identical to the ones described in section 3.8, with extra emphasis on data security technology and frameworks to evaluate the efficacy and acceptance of these types of applications.