The health sector is facing great challenges in all countries around the Baltic Sea: demographic change, more and more people with chronic diseases and a declining number of doctors, in particular in rural areas. One important solution aiming for better treatment of patients is eHealth. In 2007, a number of partners from Germany, Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Sweden established a network called “eHealth for Regions”. It covered a number of eHealth issues in several cooperation projects to create new knowledge, share experiences and enhance capacities. The latest project launched in 2017 is BaltCityPrevention, which tackles life-style related diseases.
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Transnational cooperation evolved over 11 years
“Our network was initiated during a three year project funded by Interreg,” explains Roland Trill, one of the network’s initiators who led the institute for eHealth and management in the health sector at Flensburg University for more than 30 years. Flensburg University is where the secretariat of the “eHealth for Regions” network is based. Flensburg is also the first university in Germany to establish a master’s programme for eHealth, back in 2007. “We decided to continue the network while the project was still running, because we were convinced that eHealth is a great chance for the health sectors of all industrialised countries,” Trill explains. The funding for the network is provided by the partner organisations themselves. With their work, the partners want to enhance the citizens’ health literacy and to open up the market for electronic applications supporting this. So far, the network has brought about three projects.
More efficient doctor’s visits for heart disease patients through digital health records
Pooling doctors in rural areas for professional online exchange and trainings
Activating teenagers to care about their health
Much achieved and scope for development
Through years of Interreg cooperation around the Baltic Sea, the eHealth partners have acquired new knowledge and skills that they now apply in their regions. Interreg fosters such exchange of experience and thus increases cohesion among the Baltic Sea region countries. For the future of eHealth, Trill would like to see all countries around the sea join the network. In spring 2018, Trill retired and handed over the responsibility for the eHealth network and BaltCityPrevention to Rüdiger Breitschwerdt, a young professor with a strong background in medical IT who will bring new impulses to eHealth cooperation in the Baltic Sea region: “In particular, Interreg gives us the chance to foster eHealth cooperation with the Baltic States, and to discuss chances of and barriers for eHealth on the political level.”
Article by Andrea Henkel (www.wortakzente.de), edited by Gabriele Andersen (IB.SH) and translated/edited by Stefanie Maack (Interreg Baltic Sea Region MA/JS) with support of Levke Johannsen (Flensburg University of Applied Sciences).