General confidence in digital health has made very little headway in France over the past year or so. Which areas are enjoying greater trust and where are the weak points that require improvement?

eHealth : France still has some way to go

Over the space of two years, the index of confidence in the digital health field has only risen by 1.6%, moving from 4.72/10 to 4.80 in 2013. This emerges from the second edition of the eHealth barometer, which was unveiled during a colloquium on digital health and personal autonomy which took place in Paris on 4-5 July. Sandrine Degos, Health and Autonomy director at teaching and research Group AEF, argues that taken against the background of the current economic climate, the result shows that the idea of eHealth as a factor for greater personal autonomy has now taken root in France. Nevertheless, this near stagnation in overall opinion also highlights the fact that France is still lagging behind in the field of eHealth. “France is moving very slowly in comparison with its European neighbours, both from a legal point of view and in terms of business initiatives to bring digital methods into the daily lives of patients and health practitioners,” points out Christophe Lorieux, President of eHealth solutions provider Santech. The index pinpoints areas showing an upturn in public trust, notably telemedicine and health-related social networks, and also identifies respondent groups that registered a decline in confidence compared with the last edition of the barometer.

Trust in telemedicine and health-related social networks up strongly

The headline index conceals the highly positive trend among health professionals, which comes out ahead of the average mark (5.5/10) with an over 18% rise in confidence. Within this figure, telemedicine and health-related social networks have seen the most progress with respectively a 20.82% and 26.17% rise in confidence. “There is a real need among patients who are looking for information, testimonies and advice from other people who have lived through the same experience,” explained  Yvanie Caillé, CEO of kidney patient support network Renaloo, one of the first-ever online patient communities in France. “However, we advise patients not to reveal their real identities,” she points out. In fact the index reveals a 17+% improvement in general perception of data confidentiality. In future, telemedicine is going to be a real asset when taking charge of patients suffering from chronic illness, as a complement to face-to-face care,” she underlines, adding: “And doctors will increasingly find themselves interacting with their patients via Internet in order to understand their precise needs.”

Towards a more customer-centric health system

While health professionals are quite bullish, confidence in digital health among local authority officials and elected representatives has by contrast nosedived over the past year, with the index down by more than 30% from 5.40/10 in 2012 to 3.64 this time. “The departements (local administrative areas) ought to be assuming real leadership in the deployment of eHealth,” argues Christophe Lorieux. The systems are there, but a good deal of effort is still needed in terms of coordination to get a real eHealth system up and running. “Nowadays technology enables health staff to personalise patient care, with the emphasis on prevention. Healthcare shouldn’t begin at the moment when a person becomes ill; we should be thinking more about how to prevent illness,” stresses Christophe Lorieux