Six European Governments Request Support for Interoperable Telehealth in Joint Letter to the eHealth Network

Personal Connected Health AllianceHealth ministries and their agencies responsible for ICT systems from Austria, Catalonia, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden today delivered a joint letter to the eHealth Network endorsing large scale deployment of telehealth systems, outlining challenges to implementation, and requesting support to address telehealth challenges related to enabling technology and interoperability. All have made a commitment to open standards and interoperability, and to use the Continua Design Guidelines (CDGs) as part of advanced planning or deployment of their telehealth programs. The signers acknowledged the CDGs, published by the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA), as 'the leading open framework for many technical interoperability aspects of personal connected health.'

The letter was signed by Dr. Stefan Sauermann, Interoperability/Standards Consultant to the Austrian Ministry of Health; Francesc García Cuyàs, Director of the TicSalut Foundation of the Catalan Ministry of Health; Lisbeth Nielsen, CEO of the Danish Health Data Authority; Annakaisa Iivari, Director of Social and Health Services at the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health; Roar Olsen, Division Director at The Norwegian Directorate of eHealth; and Sara Meunier, Chief Technology Officer of Inera/Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions in Sweden.

"Telehealth has demonstrated considerable potential as an approach for empowering citizens with timely personalized health data and improving health and quality of life for our people," said Sara Meunier, Chief Technology Officer of Inera/SALAR, the agency responsible for coordinating the joint eHealth activities across Sweden’s county councils and municipalities; and member of PCHA. "Our letter appeals to the eHealth Network and its Member States to help us overcome gridlock in the industry and advance the adoption of open standards for interoperable personal connected health."

The eHealth Network convenes 28 national responsible authorities on eHealth (27 EU Member States and Norway) and the European Commission to coordinate eHealth policies. Co-chaired by the Member States and the European Commission, it advances cooperation and joint initiatives in areas that the Member States deem in their common interest, including in the interoperability between electronic health systems for the continuity of care.

The letter expresses the signers' continued confidence in the benefits of telehealth and commitment to open standards and interoperability, and details their experiences and observations with regard to open interoperable telehealth, including:

  • technical challenges in moving legacy ICT systems towards telehealth
  • need for stronger demand for the Continua Design Guidelines in the public sector to overcome industry inertia and advance open interoperability
  • importance of ancillary measures to promote the market for interoperable devices

"The Continua Design Guidelines were developed and are updated annually to support open, interoperable health data exchange that goes hand in hand with the public sector mission for convenient, personalized and high quality healthcare," said Rob Havasy, Executive Director, Continua; and Vice President, PCHA. "We are grateful for the pioneering work of these government agencies, that are paving the way for improved healthcare access, quality and outcomes through telehealth and personal connected health."

The Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA) works collaboratively with health, technology and life sciences, public policy, research and advocacy groups to support a new norm of personal health engagement, positive behavior change and improved wellbeing and health outcomes. PCHA is focused on driving the agenda, creating an evidence base and mobilizing collective action to achieve personal connected health for all. PCHA hosts the annual Connected Health Conference, an international forum and expo for networking and showcasing advancements in research, innovations and opportunities in personal connected health. PCHA is a division of HIMSS and home to Continua, which publishes the annual Continua Design Guidelines. Continua is recognized as the international standard for user friendly end-to-end interoperability of personal connected health devices and systems.

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