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Evidence Based Guidelines for Nursing and Social Care on eHealth Services: Integrated Care

The Thematic Network ENS4Care aims to deliver evidence-based guidelines over a two-year period to enable the implementation of eHealth services in nursing and social care. The overall objective of the Network is to make up to date and effective eHealth guidance available to health and social care staff and those using their services in accessible formats and foster continuity and quality of care as well as patient safety across all EU Member States and the EEA.

The eHealth guidance that is developed will put information at the fingertips of service users, carers and professionals supporting them about the merits of different treatment options, models of care and specialised equipment that can enable people challenged by illness or disability to retain or regain control over the services they are receiving.

Safe and high-quality care is inextricably linked with the development and implementation of eHealth services. The current document presents evidence-based guidelines to inform policy-makers, health professionals, citizens and industry in the design and deployment of eHealth services at local, regional, national and European level based on identified best practice examples collected through the ENS4Care thematic network from countries across the European Union (EU).
Whilst nurses, social workers and other care staff across Europe already possess well-developed core skills and shared values, there are significant variations in the organisation and management of services and the roles that health and social care staff undertake in different countries. Likewise the term integrate care is now being used to refer to widely different scenarios such as the amalgamation of services such as health and social care, housing and welfare benefit and social protection, that have traditionally been distinctly separate.

However, this guideline builds on the work of the ENS4Care network work stream ‘Integrated Care’ and is focussed specifically on the deployment of eHealth services to support the provision of integrated health and social care services to an individual citizen, family or population in their own home(s) or in primary, secondary health, and social care settings.

Integrated care along the care continuum is essential to ensuring optimal outcomes are achieved for all people living in the EU, especially those burdened with chronic disease and complex care needs and who require attention from a range of professionals from primary and secondary health and social care sectors. eHealth is a key enabler for integrated care, used here to refer to the management and delivery of health and social care services so that citizens receive a continuum of preventive, curative and supporting services, according to their needs over time and across different levels of the health and social care systems. eHealth plays a key role in supporting the introduction and development of the new skills required to deploy integrated care. Principle amongst these are Information Prescribing to promote informed choice and Shared Decision Making (SDM)

The present document outlines key steps and considerations for the deployment of eHealth services for integrated care at different levels of enablement. It includes the scope of the guideline, deployment process, and key factors that can act as barriers or facilitators, outcomes and implications, relevant EU policy and legal context. In particular, analysis of the evidence collected and the extrapolation of the key elements of the practice examples amassed point towards a four-stage deployment pathway consisting of planning, implementation, evaluation and elaboration processes influenced by cross-cutting structural and procedural factors.

The guideline deployment pathway that is detailed here is targeted at a range of stakeholders with an interest in eHealth services and is designed to be transferable across EU countries. It is therefore presented ready for immediate use.