European perspectives on eHealth: a Q&A with Denise Silber

Denise Silber is the founder and president of Basil Strategies, a Paris-based healthcare emarketing and social media consultancy. She’s recognized for her pioneering work in linking the European and American medical communities online, for which she was decorated with the French Legion of Honor in 2011. Today, she’s busy putting together the second annual Doctors 2.0 & You conference, which will convene May 23 and 24 in Paris.



We’re delighted to have you on our 2012 Medicine X advisory board, in part because you bring a European perspective to the eHealth conversation. Can you shed some light on how that perspective differs from the one we have here in Silicon Valley?

If we want to generalize, Europe’s system is more oriented around government and public health. The European Commission promotes eHealth through its funding programs for innovation and through its  “directives” (non-binding recommendations to member states) in support of eHealth services and data protection. Because European citizens are entitled to reciprocal health services, the electronic health record and telemedicine are indispensable, at least in theory.

But, really, there isn’t a single European perspective on eHealth; each country has its own policy and culture. Perhaps Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have the most in common with one another, in terms of widespread use of electronic health records, telemedicine and e-prescription. Certain regions in Spain and Italy provide telemedicine consultations with specialists. In France, telemedicine is now “legal” and we’re seeing the emergence of a number of private physician-staffed online platforms (start-ups) that answer patient questions at a distance. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has embraced social media for healthcare professionals, as a way to improve communication among the units of the NHS and with the public.

What’s the most exciting current running through the European eHealth movement today?

Denise Silber with Dr. Larry Chu

What’s most exciting Europeans at present are the new people—the social media innovators and app developers—rising to make an impact on healthcare.

And that’s what Doctors 2.0 & You is all about—understanding what healthcare professionals need in these new online tools and services, right? So what have you figured out?

Practitioners are looking for tools that simplify their work and also improve its quality. They like devices that quicken medical calculations, provide access to details about drugs, create ease of communication with professionals at a distance and make it possible to show medical visuals to patients. Digital tablets—and in particular, the iPad—attract them for all those functionalities.

Conversely…?

Doctors are discouraged by risk. For example, they don’t want to be alerted during out-of-office hours by a digital tool about a patient problem for which they could be held responsible. And most don’t have extra time to answer patient questions outside of the physical appointment time. So we need to find new solutions for 24-hour monitoring services and new ways to answer patient questions outside the consultation, especially for the chronically ill.

What are you looking forward to in Medicine X?

Each conference has its own personality, based on location, the conference teams and advisors. I love the Stanford environment and the work that Dr. Larry Chu and team have been doing. So I expect to meet great new people and learn amazing things, as always.

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