The use of telematics for healthcare
european Union actions

Michel Carpentier
Director General
European Commission, DG XIII
Brussels, Belgium

The today conference on the use of new tools of information and communication for healthcare is very pertinent and in phase with the cultural revolution that we are experiencing now: it is at the frontier between the technological progress and social evolution in which appear the key elements of the future.

The key point is the social acceptance of the new telematics tools: it is now a fact for the citizens, it's also a fact for the medical professionals. For some of them, the request concerns information or assistance for decision, for others self training or access to alphanumerical or images data banks. Others may also request new tools for country planning. The constraints in this field are enormous and perhaps stronger than in other fields: technical (high speed, higher resolution, etc.), economical (but the new progress seems to demonstrate that success will be achieved very soon) and cultural. In the field of health: disparities in the target populations are enormous and the background education of the health professionals was more oriented to humans than technological sciences. Nevertheless, the professional acceptance of telematics is now good enough: 80% of the healthcare professionals use computers in UK, less in other countries.

The initiatives of the European Union for supporting telematics for health are not new: since 1986 the successive programmes named AIM (Advanced Informatics in Medicine) funded more than 150 projects. The first result of these initiatives is something like a European AIM Community with more than 6000 persons concerned. The Lisbon conference held in December 1994 with about 1000 participants proved the real interest in this field.

But another element appears now: the pharmaceutical industry claims that medical information is strategic. This element is crucial for the future industrial developments of the telematics for health. With a social acceptance previously described and an industrial approach like the one developed by the pharmaceutical industry, it is possible that time has come for a real industrial development of an information health industry.

This element is part of the promotion of the Global Information Society described in the Bangemann Report and sustained by the Ministers during the G-7 meeting of 25 February 1995 in Brussels.

I hope that your today meeting will play a key role in this progress.


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