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  eHealth: How Technology Is Transforming Health Care 

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Information and communication technologies have already profoundly transformed health care as it is practiced today.

From empowering patients to contributing to better and more efficient care, "eHealth" initiatives are now part of the sector's reality and future.

The co-editors of the volume Managing eHealth: From Vision to Reality (Palgrave Macmillan 2014) look into the management of eHealth, tracking the sector's tech transformation from the 1990s onward. They stress the importance of management to overcome its many challenges and realize its full potential.

Co-editors Magdalene Rosenmöller of IESE, Diane Whitehouse and Petra Wilson describe the book as a tribute to the late Prof. Jean-Claude Healy, an eHealth pioneer who laid the foundations for many of Europe's forward-looking eHealth initiatives.

Defining eHealth to Move Forward
The European Commission's "eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020" contains a useful definition of eHealth that the co-editors quote in their introduction: "eHealth is the use of ICT [information and communication technologies] in health products, services and processes combined with organizational change in healthcare systems and new skills, in order to improve health of citizens, efficiency and productivity in healthcare delivery, and the economic and social value of health."

Contemporary eHealth topics include electronic health records, combined with the availability of mobile telephony (mHealth); the exploration of genetic data to predict and prevent diseases; new devices and wearable technology; and harvesting "big data" to better manage health care and systems.

With the ultimate goal of improving health and care, eHealth here implicates people, policies and practices. Managing eHealth gathers essays from health policymakers, business school professors, senior executives, researchers, health professionals and patients.

The book's content is organized around three main perspectives:

1. Politics: Policy and Institutions
The first section looks at the legal and political frameworks guiding eHealth, with a particular focus on Jean-Claude Healy's role in European eHealth policy. The five chapters here bring the reader up-to-date on the emergence of European Union (EU) law and policy on eHealth, with proposals for initiatives stretching to 2020. From governments to governance, contributors also look at eHealth policies at the national level and worldwide, including steps taken by the World Health Organization (WHO).

2. People: Professionals, Patients and Consumers
Doctors, nurses, informaticians, patients and the general public are all protagonists in the six chapters in the second section. Essays highlight the work of professionals to bridge gaps left open by institutions and eHealth regulations to protect sensitive data, for example.

The increasing health literacy of the public -- thanks to the internet, social media and mobile telephony -- is another key topic. Contributors point to organizations, such as the Health on the Net (HON) Foundation, working to help consumers identify trustworthy information online. Empowering the public to be a driving force for delivering care in the future is an important goal of eHealth.

IESE's Magdalene Rosenmöller co-writes an essay in this section on the increasingly intimate relationship between patients and eHealth -- including how patients will soon be using eHealth technologies that are "closer to [their] bodies, minds and brains." For example, from Flowlab -- a "telemedicine accelerator" -- products such as "smart" bracelets are coming to the market to remind patients to take their medications. In order to realize the true value of e/mHealth for patients and health systems, good management is paramount, in the authors' view.

3. Practice: New Ways of Working and Other Challenges
Professional and work practices for today and the future take center stage in the book's third and final section.

Rosenmöller and two senior hospital executives contribute with an essay on health information technology (HIT) in two leading hospitals in Europe. They explore the challenges of implementation and the opportunities to move hospitals from traditional and reactive medicine to a more preventative and predictive approach.

The co-editors and other contributors offer advice and insights to help navigate the profound transformation underway, where management is key in moving eHealth from vision to reality.
This article is based on:  Managing eHealth: From Vision to Reality
Publisher:  Palgrave Macmillan
Year:  2014
Language:  English