Building a Future of Digital Health Services: The Potential of e-Health in Public Health Emergencies

On Wednesday May 20, the webinar on “Building a Future of Digital Health Services: The Potential of e-Health in Public Health Emergencies” was held by SME Connect Italy in association with SME Europe of the European People’s Party to highlight the need to digitalize and modernize our health care systems to cope with global emergencies, ageing populations as well as non-communicable and chronic diseases.

The Webinar was Hosted and moderated by Dr. Michal Boni, First Minister of Administration & Digitalisation of Poland 2011-2013; Member of the European Parliament 2014-2019, Co-rapporteur of the Directive of Public information & reuse of public information; Senator of the SME Europe of the EPP; Special Representative for Digitalization & AI, SME Connect and initiated by  Elisabetta Gardini, Member of the European Parliament 2008-2019, ENVI Committee; President SME Connect Italy bringing together an Expert Panel with Justine Korwek, Vice-Chair of Digital Health Committee, MedTech Europe; Director of Government Affairs Europe, ResMed; M.D. Dr. Henrique Martins, University Professor; Former President SPMS; Past Co-Chair of e-health Network, European Commission; Dr. Daniela Scaramuccia, Director of Industry Solutions & Business Development e-Health Italy IBM; Lorenzo Montermini, Director of Strategies, Communications & Marketing Office GPI; and Fabrizio Pior, President, Innovare S.r.l., to discuss the potential of e-health and its positive contribution during public health emergencies.



In her welcome speech, Elisabetta Gardini  accentuated the paradigm shift brought on by COVID-19: the long-term sustainability of European health care systems might be positively impacted by e-health tools. In order to build trust, data protection and the coordination between European Member States remain the key enablers.

Remarking the ongoing transformation of our health care systems, Dr. Michal Boni stated that new technologies might become a game changer. However, clear data models with well-defined data protection measures, the accessibility without barriers and the harmonisation of regulations for all Member States are needed to fully harness the potential of e-health.

Justine Korwek stressed the vital importance of data for prevention, diagnosis, treatments, monitoring and the managing of health emergencies. Moreover, AI technologies might alleviate the shortage of health care professionals by performing time consuming tasks and optimizing administrative processes. Especially in times of COVID-19, apps and digital tools support the retrospective tracing of infections to reduce further burden on health care systems. In short: data saves lives while ensuring compliance with applicable data protection and privacy regulations.

“Emergencies needs to be prepared in advance,” stated M.D. Dr. Henrique Martins, remarking the importance of developing foundational health information systems before they are actually needed. He emphasized the urgent need for a faster health care digitalisation: thinking digitally first will ensure data privacy and interoperability and crete a care-model with patients at its centre.

Dr. Daniela Scaramuccia agreed to the need to support e-health systems, while keeping in mind the common European values of data protection. Ethics in AI, the openness of platforms, security and sustainability should drive technological progress for a responsible, open and inclusive Europe.

Lorenzo Monermini stated that in Italy, the COVID-19 health emergency has raised the awareness of the role of digital healthcare and especially its instrumentality for diagnosis and therapeutic care. Redesigning public and private health care through AI would ensure efficiency as well as economic and financial sustainability in the long run.

The webinar ended with a case presentation by Fabrizio Prior. Funded by Interreg Italia-Slovenja, Canale Amico, an integrated ICT Service for audio and video connection between residential facilities for the elderly, patients at home and care centres, serves an example of the clear benefits of the shift to a more digitalised health care system.