A European Benchmarking of eHealth and eCare
"The goal in sight, but not yet within reach" - this is how one can summarize the outcomes of the eCare Benchmarking study conducted by empirica together with Gesellschaft für Versicherungswissenschaft und -gestaltung e.V. on behalf of the European Commission.
The analysis of current eHealth and eCare deployment levels done by the study show that eCare solutions existing today are still some distance away from being mainstreamed in the sense that they are widely available within and across the countries investigated. Only 1st generation telecare (i.e. basic social alarm services) is a fully mainstreamed service in most of the countries that were analysed by the study and is widely available in the others. 2nd generation telecare (i.e. basic social alarm extended by means of different types of sensors and actuators installed in the home environment) has started to be deployed on a larger scale but is currently not fully mainstreamed anywhere. 3rd generation telecare where systems and devices can automatically (e.g. based on reasoning algorithms) react to changes in behavioural patterns recognised through sensors) remains by and large at a proof-of-concept stage. Telehealth and telemonitoring solutions seem to start finding their way into day-to-day health care practice, but full mainstreaming is currently achieved nowhere.
There is ample proof from literature, pilot trials and real-life services that telecare and telehealth services, when operating properly, can deliver tangible benefits not only for individuals (older people, informal carers and care professionals) but also on the level of the social and health care systems. From the point of view of older people and informal carers the main benefits emerging from the impact analysis done by the study include improved quality of life, reduced numbers of avoidable admissions and readmissions into hospital and a reduced time of stay, the ability of staying longer in the home environment rather than having to go into institutional care and reduced pressure on informal carers. Users also reported that eCare provides a feeling of comfort and security in the home environment, less anxiety and other emotional benefits. On the level of the health and social care systems, telecare and telehealth services were shown to have the potential to reduce health care cost (e.g. in the case of avoided hospital admissions), to increase the range of services that can be provided, to improve service quality and to allow for more efficient service provision.
Other topics addressed by the study included governance and organisational structures supporting eHealth and eCare, funding schemes, legal issues and human capital.