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Better and more efficient care though ICT-enabled integration – European conference Beyond Silos a big success

Integrated care for older people spanning across the silos that separate social and health care in many countries can be both more effective and more efficient than disjointed forms of support, in particular where integrated care processes are supported through ICT in a meaningful way. This was the common theme voiced by all participants in the recent conference “Beyond Silos - The Why and How of ICT in Integrated Care Service Provision”. About 60 representatives of research, policy and practice from all over Europe found their way to the Evoluon conference centre in the Dutch city of Eindhoven on the 23rd of November to meet, share and learn.

The conference was opened by Mary-Ann Schreurs, vice-mayor of the city of Eindhoven who reminded us that the things we are doing have to be seen in the wider context of the societal changes of our time. She also emphasised that real action, “real-life service implementation” in the words of some of the conference attendees, is now required because pilot projects are only the first step and “the easy part” on the way to making integrated care a reality for all Europeans. Peter Wintley-Jensen of the European Commission’s Directorate General “Information Society and Media” and second opening speaker said that the issue of integrated care, and the role technology can play, is integral part of political and funding activities at the European level already today and considered to become ever more important in the future.

Through a series of excellent key notes and project presentations, conference attendees got a good impression of what is going on in the field of integrated eCare, not least how many different types of activities can be subsumed under this one heading, ranging from integration within the boundaries of health care to integration across various fields of social and health care; “Silos within silos”, as Michael Rigby, Professor emeritus of Keele University named the challenge in his visionary and inspiring keynote. During a series of three break-out sessions the conference participants could not only listen to what others are doing but contribute their own experiences and views as well. In engaging and far-ranging discussions issues such as service requirements, governance and financing models and impact assessment were further developed, allowing people to position themselves in relation to activities going on all over Europe.

A panel discussion in the end not only brought together key stakeholders active in the domain – from IT industry to policy makers and service providers – but also allowed the conference attendees to collect the various strands of discussion and to depart with a good understanding of what is going on today and with an idea of what the future might bring.

The conference was organized jointly by two projects that are currently piloting services for integrated eCare at ten sites all over Europe: CommonWell and INDEPENDENT. Both projects hoped in that way not only to share some of their experiences but also to create a focal point to bring together those stakeholders that are active in this fledgling field.

Conference presentations are available through the conference website www.beyond-silos.eu. More information about the two projects can also be found online, please visit www.independent-project.eu and www.commonwell.eu.


Lively discussions at the second meeting of the INDEPENDENT Advisory Board

The INDEPENDENT Advisory Board met on 22 November in Eindhoven, one day before the European conference “Beyond Silos - The Why and How of ICT in Integrated Care Service Provision”.
After a short introduction given by Lutz Kubitschke from empirica, discussions arose around the diversity of existing social care and healthcare systems and thus a huge diversity across countries when it comes to the type and nature of care services/pathways and third sector support which are today available to older people. In INDEPENDENT, each pilot site has developed a clear initial focus on one or more relevant components of a generic INDEPENDENT overall service model. These are addressed by the sites in developing their digital support infrastructure in line with the INDEPENDENT service oriented architecture.
Another topic of interest was the call from some advisory members to better exploit data derived from existing telecare or telehealth applications and issues around data protection were controversially discussed in that regard.

The meeting was the second meeting of the two advisory boards set up in INDEPENDENT: The User Advisory Board focuses primarily on bringing the perspective of user representatives to bear on the project. The second board, entitled Public Policy and Ethics Advisory Board, aims at involving experts on policy and ethics-related aspects in INDEPENDENT. The members of the board act both as advisors and quality assurance to the project and as liaison to the European and national level through their organisation and networks. To be able to do this, the members are invited to attend regular face-to-face meetings, receive regular updates on the project results and are invited to give their comments and input on project results.