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Neelie Kroes Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda eHealth: an answer to EU healthcare and demographic challenges ETNO Innovation Day 2011 Brussels, 25 January 2011

Reference:  SPEECH/11/43    Date:  25/01/2011
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Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

eHealth: an answer to EU healthcare and demographic challenges

ETNO Innovation Day 2011

Brussels, 25 January 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here this afternoon. Telecoms operators have not had a long history in eHealth, but I want to do everything in my power to work with you to change that. You have a critical role in our society enabling so many different types of relationships and transactions. And you run the essential infrastructure – broadband, other communications networks – which can revolutionise how health is managed.

As you are well aware, demography is not on our side. More than 30% of Europeans will be 65 or over in 2025. Chronic conditions are going up just as a shortage of specialists and carers emerges. This will become a huge care gap unless technology fills it. It means our systems are guaranteed to collapse if we do not make radical changes. When I hear information like the Spanish Government's estimates that health professionals are spending between 30 and 50 per cent of their time on administrative tasks, it is even clearer that innovation cannot come soon enough!

That goes for both the policy and market sides of this equation. Sustainable eHealth investment clearly requires a lot more than finance alone. It requires more efficient patenting, the right data laws, smarter procurement, de-fragmenting markets, and quicker standard-setting. And that is before we even consider skills issues. Tackling those problems is my commitment to you. I hope your commitment to me, in return, is an increasing appetite to enter eHealth markets.

Why? Because there is going to be a huge demand from all levels of society for technology that makes healthy independent living easier. And policy will keep boosting that demand.

Such personal health solutions do more than improve lives - they both save and make money at the same time. They can save money for those managing health and care systems, ensuring we maintain high quality care for all. And they can make money for those able to seize the opportunities. By that, I mean all of you here today.

Where are you going to make money? Look for example at TV and Internet-based personal health monitoring services. Or wearable devices that monitor one's physical well- being. These trends reinforce already obvious trends like the growing demand for data, especially mobile data. And the huge growth in the market for apps. As I've said, whether it is through telemedicine targets, standards reform, or better spectrum management, – we are committed to creating the right business conditions for you to scale up your investments.

Indeed, this entire context points in one direction. To the fact that we want to help you move into new, high value-add markets as traditional revenue streams become more commoditised. And as you assess the opportunities, I want to make sure that eHealth is firmly on your radar.

The US market alone for assisted daily living, ageing, chronic and acute disease management will grow to 30 billion dollars in the next 5 years. It is time we matched or beat that in Europe. It is what our people need and our European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing is a way to get us there. This is a new way of working for us. It will help to build bridges between the different stage of research and innovation and large scale deployments. I hope you are willing to be equally pragmatic.

Whether you are working with us or in joint ventures with another telecoms or health company, the precise business model does not matter. The key is to get on board this train soon, by assembling the expertise in the most pragmatic way. Then reinforce the investments that work. For our part we can see that the Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme is working so far, so we will reinforce it in 2011.

Let me now take now the example of telemedicine services. These services have the potential to offer a freedom of movement that people living with chronic conditions rarely enjoy. But the solutions of tomorrow depend on you. They depend on new broadband business models that can generate win-win-win for healthcare providers, end-users and telcos. So I invite you to continue your discussions and to take part in our Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. That is, if you are not already involved. Through this programme we can support you in efforts to pilot innovative, secure and user-friendly systems for patients to access to their health data and enable online health services

Likewise, mobile health should surely be at the heart of your discussions today. The majority of doctors already use smart phones: just think about the potential the medical applications market offers. This market will reach into the hundreds of millions of euros in coming years. Whether you make or host apps – or both – you stand to gain. The iStethoscope application is one new European success. Created by a British researcher, the iStethoscope creates a 24/7 stethoscope in your pocket. After just six months it is used by more than three million doctors. The business message is that phones aren't just toys any longer. They are serious tools for healthcare, and may even save lives.

If you want to take on a larger role in this incredible new market – now is the time to take the decision. Like the Digital Agenda, its success depends on the engagement of all interested parties.

Of course, this is all much harder than it sounds. I am not naïve about that. But what I want to match these ideals with concrete action – that is much better than giving up on the ideals or leaving success to chance. So I see my job as enabling your success by getting rid of pointless obstacles. Please let me hear your ideas on that front.

The rest is your responsibility. And I am confident you can exercise it well. You are a diverse group of very talented people backed by some very talented leaders. So please keep investing in creative thinking.

The size and strength in today's increasingly ICT-driven economy places you in a powerful position to instigate positive change.

And don’t forget – we are all going to reap what we sow on this topic. If you and I want to experience the care we know is possible, we really have to get our act together.

That is both an exciting and serious prospect to reflect on today. I wish you a successful conference. And I look forward to hearing your suggestions.