Economic Aspects of eHealth



The ageing of the European population is putting the sustainability of European health and social care systems at risk. As EU citizens live longer and are likely to suffer more from chronic diseases, healthcare demand is on the rise at a time when the economic crisis is affecting public budgets. In addition, the average EU27 old-age/dependency ratio – i.e. the ratio between the 65 + population and those of working age (15-64) is forecasted to more than double over the period 2000-2060. The pool of taxpayers – and that of health and social care professionals- will therefore shrink as the number of individuals in need of health and social care increases.

The EC has long recognised the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and more specifically eHealth, to help contain costs and maintain high quality care. Although EC funding dedicated to eHealth research and innovation has amounted to €1.25 billion over the last two decades, eHealth still only represents a tiny share of healthcare spending in Europe. Through targeted policy initiatives such as the Lead Market Initiative, and more recently the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, the EC has been trying to unleash the potential of eHealth.

Over a number of years, IPTS has been engaged in research on the impact of ICTs in the health sector. More specifically, the IS Unit's research project SIMPHS directly contributes to the policy objectives of the eHealth Action Plan. It aims to develop eHealth to address several of the most pressing health and health system challenges of the first half of the 21st century, such as

  • chronic disease management, prevention and health promotion;
  • improving the sustainability and efficiency of health systems by unlocking innovation, enhancing patient/citizen-centric care and citizen empowerment and encouraging organisational changes
  • fostering cross-border healthcare and improving legal and market conditions for developing eHealth products and services.

By investigating the development of integrated care and the factors that contribute to its successful implementation, the SIMPHS research project contributes to removing barriers to wider eHealth deployment and to promoting awareness on innovative initiatives.

Our research also contributes to the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) policy initiative. The DAE was launched in 2010 as the first of seven flagship initiatives under Europe 2020, the EU's strategy to deliver smart sustainable and inclusive growth. The DAE aims to boost Europe's economy and help Europe's citizens and businesses to get the most out of digital technologies. Action 54, on promoting a new generation of web-based applications and services, and Action 55, on promoting ICT research and innovation, are especially relevant for us.

Last but not least, we also provide direct support to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA) initiative. This is the first Innovation Partnership, launched as part of the Innovation Union, through the MAFEIP project. The Innovation Partnerships aim to address European research and innovation system weaknesses, which prevent innovation from making it to the market stage. In the context of an ageing European population, active and healthy ageing has been identified by the EC as both a major societal challenge common to all European countries and an opportunity for Europe to take the lead in providing innovative solutions in this field. This will be addressed by the pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. More specifically, the EIP on AHA aims to increase the average healthy life span of European citizens by two healthy life years (HLY), by 2020.


Fabienne Abadie