Although eHealth cannot replace the physician-to-patient relationship, it has a fantastic potential, Hungarian Minister of National Resources, MiklÃ³s RÃ©thelyi emphasised, at the press briefing of the ministerial conference of the eHealth Week in Budapest. Nelly Kroes and John Dalli, the participating members of the European Commission agreed, and all stressed the need for cooperation and best practice exchange between the Member States of the European Union.
eHealth Week is the biggest European event in the field of ITC for healthcare. The event is hosted every year by the European Commission and the current holder of the Presidency of the EU Council; it is attended by health professionals and policy makers, as well as healthcare development companies. The motto of the three-day event (10-12 May 2011, Budapest) held during the Hungarian Presidency of the EU Council was 'Investing in the healthcare systems of the future.'
The minister gave an account of his visit, together with members of the Commission and international healthcare professionals, to Semmelweis University of Budapest, where they became familiar with several remarkable medical research projects and technological innovations. In this context, Mr RÃ©thelyi emphasised the importance of innovation in healthcare.
"We have to invest in efficient care systems and to create more efficient healthcare," Minister of State for Health of the Ministry of National Resources, MihÃ¡ly SzÃ³cska said in his opening remarks, at the press conference. He explained that electronic upgrades will greatly promote both healthcare policy decision-making and the provision system. "We have been talking about a new and modern healthcare provision system and ways to improve the existing ones," Mr SzÃ³cska said, summarising the objectives of the conference. He believes that accelerating eHealth developments will help to create sustainable healthcare systems and strengthen Europe's competitiveness. MiklÃ³s SzÃ³cska stressed that this field also requires European cooperation.
Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes showed her appreciation of the innovative solutions presented. The Commissioner said European creativity and innovation should not be underestimated. "There are lots of innovative solutions in Europe, which have to be made accessible," she warned. Ms Kroes also mentioned that involving the business sector would help a lot, in creating and disseminating new solutions. At the same time, she underlined the importance of cooperation between Member States.
European society is aging, the number of chronic diseases is increasing, and social insurance systems call for a reform in most Member States, European Commissioner for Health, John Dalli told the press conference, regarding the healthcare problems of Europe. Mr Dalli said, "eHealth can help us to overcome our problems in the long run, but we will also need to create a suitable environment for it. There are no borders in healthcare, it is very important to exchange best practices and primarily, we have to be cost-efficient." The Commissioner believes that we have to invest in new and innovative technologies. Also, we have to convince financial ministers of Member States that healthcare investments will pay off eventually.
Mr Dalli also mentioned that eHealth is also a big challenge for healthcare workers, as they have to learn to use new tools and transform their work methods. "New solutions are not meant to replace human labour: they have to be involved during the development stages," he outlined.
Mr Dalli reminded about recent achievements as well: he believes that several problems are solved by the Directive on 'cross-border' healthcare, which was adopted by the Council during the term of the Hungarian Presidency, on 28 February 2011, following the approval of the European Parliament.
The press conference was followed by the inauguration of the eHealth Week exhibition, where companies presented their latest eHealth developments.