Access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a vital component of EU goals for smarter, faster growth and development. Targets for the coming decade include increases in the speed and coverage of broadband internet access across the EU. Investments in this infrastructure will not only bring improvements to economic and social quality of life, but can improve access to services that directly impact health and wellbeing.

Understanding the policy context

At the EU level, improvements to ICT infrastructure and access are promoted though the Flagship Initiative “A Digital Agenda for Europe”.

To qualify for funding in the 2014-2020 period, Member States have to create a national or regional innovation strategy stimulating the demand for affordable ICT-enabled private and public services. In addition, Member States have to create national Next Generation Access (NGA) Plans to reach the EU high-speed Internet access target.

These strategies may address a number of health concerns, including:

  •  
  • management of health care services;
  • epidemiological surveillance;
  • computer-based medical records;
  • access to literature and information services;
  • knowledge based services; and
  • geographic information systems (GIS) and telemedicine.

 

Developing Operational Programmes

The table below highlights some examples where the links between the ICT and health have been recognized by Member States and regions in the 2007-2013 Operational Programmes (follow the links for additional information and details).

 

Example

Where to find it

In its Regional Development OP, Bulgaria has recognized the potential of improvement in broadband development and coverage to contribute to the accessibility of health care.

Bulgaria “Regional Development” OP 2007-2013, Section 2.15, page 16

The development of information and communication technologies in the health sector significantly contributes to the value-added in the sector and to overall economic development. In its Human Resources Development OP, Slovenia recognizes this link and develops a plan for a single entry health information point (one-stop-shop).

Slovenia Human Resources Development OP 2007-2013, Section 3.3.5.4, pages 121-123

In its ERDF OP the Border, Midland and Western region in Ireland has recognised health as one of the main sectors to benefit from a telecommunication and energy infrastructure suitable for the 21st century.

Ireland BMW ERDF OP 2007-2013, Section 2.15, page 16

 

Developing Projects

Below are some examples of projects that use ICT funding to target health gains.

The Literatuurwijk project in Flevoland, Netherlands constructed an online portal for the local health center. From the portal’s homepage, local inhabitants can get the answers they need without even having to leave the house.

The “Broadband Communication Network of Kujawsko-Pomerskie region (K-PSI)” project aims to close the digital gap between the urban and the more remote rural areas and support applications in e-health. The Polish region is installing a high-speed network, connecting 19 counties via fast broadband access throughout the territory.

In Languedoc-Roussillon, rural public health services have benefitted from a next generation broadband project that enables the transfer of detailed dossiers to big hospital centres in the region or elsewhere in France.

A project between Baden-Württemberg (Germany) and Alsace (France) has been developed, where the use of ICT for remote monitoring of transplant patients can help provide patients with the possibility to live in their home environment.