What do we call e-health or connected health ? According to the European Commission, it is “the application of information and communication technologies to all the activities related to health”. Several fields are involved :
- Shared health information systems (medical file…)
- Telemedicine (remote consultation, remote support, remote surveillance…)
- Patients services (accompaniment and learning for chronic patients, general public portals…)
- Health professionals training…
With the increase of chronic diseases, the diversification of sanitary risks or the aging of the population, the use of new technologies to serve health has naturally imposed itself. Current organizations of our health system or on their way to modernization. The French governments gets involved in this revolution of health and has therefore developed a strategy to support innovations in this field. In its report of 4 July 2016, Stratégie Nationale E-santé 2020 (National e-Health Strategy 2020, source), the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health states that it has the ambition to call up large-scale digital resources to serve citizens users of the health system, health professionals, economic players of the digital health market and members of the health system. E-health therefore covers a wide variety of uses of technology.
Improvement of the provided care
For the aging population in particular, improving the quality of the care provided includes strengthening and simplifying access to telemedicine and reviewing administrative procedures. The multiplication of connected objects makes it possible to digitize the processes of production and management of care and also helps medical decision making. By medical decision support system, we mean the alert systems (reminders) as well as the systems to define the right treatment for a patient presenting several complex pathologies. Technology makes the exploitation of medical knowledge possible via massive patient data to better target the appropriate treatments according to the patient’s profile.
Prevention in public health
E-health should make it possible for patients to be better informed about health and health care provision and it should also give them access to their medical information where and when they need it. Umanlife digital health book is in line with this desire to be able to share a medical file and download it directly from a mobile phone while maintaining data security. Patients will become more autonomous in managing their health thanks to educational programs and technologies that allow them to follow their health indicators. In addition, modelling tools can facilitate the anticipation and follow-up of epidemics.
Unfortunately, regarding this market of connected health and well-being, France still has some progress to make. It only receives 2% of the investments related to this market, against 63% for the United States and 8% for China and the United Kingdom (source). However, with a strong capacity for innovation thanks to excellent academic training and a growing number of start-ups, the French e-health market suffers from the slowness of fund-raising that can flow some otherwise promising projects. In addition, since the French statist culture is very strong, health is seen as a public good, responsibility of the state and not of private firms. It is not uncommon for French start-ups to start by expanding abroad : Americans and Germans for instance are much more sensitive to the issue of connected objects for health and to innovating initiatives in this field. In France, the legal framework around health is much stricter than in most other countries. French people are also very concerned about the security of their personal data, this can deter them from using objects collecting and storing their health data online. Currently, health data must be stored at “healthcare data host” accredited system, in order to enter the legal framework. Even in the development of health or wellness applications a medical diagnosis is not permitted for instance, and the boundary between personalised advice and diagnosis is blurred. France definitely has the potential to be competitive on the e-health market with its abundance of highly skilled auto-entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, there are still too many legal, financial and social obstacles to let all this potential blossom. Until the health system customers show interest, it will remain hard for French startups to break through on the national market, the health system being too big an organization to trigger consequent and fast moves.