Better and more efficient care through 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. This particularly where integrated care processes are supported through ICT in a meaningful way. This was the common view 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 people not only that the things they 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 Wintlev-Jensen of the European Commission’s Directorate General Information Society 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 and 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. Through 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 (co-funded under the European Commission’s CIP programme and coordinated by empirica) 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 and a video will be made available through the conference website in the coming weeks: 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.