Digital technology is one immediate way to lessen the impact of shrinking healthcare budgets, Independent MEP Nessa Childers stressed today.
‘With the growing use of smartphones and tablets, it would foolish for our health services to be left behind digitally,’ Ms Childers said from her Strasbourg office. ‘The technology now exists to make patient services faster and, more importantly, safer.’
Last year, Enda Kenny told an international assembly in Dublin that the European Commission’s eHealth Action Plan 2012–2020 was a ‘vision for us all’. However, Ms Childers added it is vital that the Taoiseach now implements the plans, which were officially approved in Strasbourg earlier today.
‘The Government needs to support the relevant medical bodies and organisations so that they can offer these platforms to as many patients as possible,’ she warned.
In particular, Ms Childers said the epSOS scheme, which has been so far been introduced in 23 countries, was a good example of how digital technology and medical services can be combined to great effect. ‘People now travel more, they move abroad for work or they opt to study in another country – the epSOS system means their medical records travel with them. It’s simple, but this is something that actually saves lives.’
Additionally, she emphasised: ‘Any illness is tough to manage. But often the upheaval from the comforts of a familiar space is as challenging as the condition itself. And hospital closures mean more people, especially in rural areas, have to travel greater distance to access care.
‘Even before we consider the further benefits of a reduced demand for public beds, if advanced technology means we can help more patients rest, recover and receive treatment at home, then that can only be applauded.’