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29 April 2021

EHealth, the future is digital

The wide-spread use of the internet and mobile phones has fostered a flourishing eServices industry, which is still inexorably on the rise. Shopping, banking, travel bookings, entertainment bookings, and even dating are some common examples of the things we now do online. Digitalisation is making our lives easier, and saves us time.

But what about eHealth? What are the benefits of accelerating the digitalisation process in the health space?

Allow me to use my case as an example. Although I do not see myself that way, from a purely medical point of view, I’m a ‘chronic patient’. I have suffered from asthma since I was a child and despite being active, sporty, and hard-working, in 2019 I ended up in hospital because I neglected my condition.

This situation could have been prevented if I had been self-monitoring my health. Indeed, research supports my claim: eHealth guidance can be very beneficial for patients with chronic diseases.

In 2014, we created a consortium with healthcare insurers, GP organisations and patient organisations. This consortium launched a self-management program in the Netherlands to guide 'chronically ill patients' with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease. Patients got online training and advice from doctors about their disease, medication, and lifestyle. They also learned how to use an app that dispensed advice on their lifestyle and medication.

After five years, the results were astonishing.

Each euro invested translated to a return of 4.90 euros per patient per year. This result was mainly caused by a higher quality of life for patients and lower healthcare costs.

The program also changed the interaction between patients and health professionals. The GPs and nurses involved also received training to deal with better-informed patients.

You can read the full paper here.

This research makes me especially happy and proud. Improving the life of people with chronic diseases is my main motivation to work in healthcare, and I believe the role of eHealth will be key in our quest towards a healthier future.

I can vouch for it since I am using different digital applications to remain fit and keep my asthma under control. And it is working great!

Author: Esther Talboom-Kamp, PhD, CIO Unilabs and CEO Unilabs Netherlands ad interim.

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