BARCELONA — The obstacles to home care using sophisticated medical devices include the costs of such equipment, realigning reimbursement models and contending with legal barriers.

Petra Wilson, a former deputy director of the European Health Management Association who worked with the European Commission to draw up country-by-country, e-health action plans, said at-home monitoring of chronic disease, and more widely the shift toward a personal responsibility for health poses a "fundamental conundrum" for Europe.

"Healthcare is a service for Europeans and the fear of an erosion of these rights is one of the factors that led to the Dutch and French veto of the EU constitution in referendums last year," she said.

Another issue is whether the European medical community is legally able to accept medical devices for personal care, said Wilson, a lawyer by training who directs the Public Sector Healthcare unit in the UK for Cisco Systems (San Jose, California).

"There are considerable legal barriers across Europe, liability issues and data protection regulations," she said, "which all means European doctors may not, or can not, accept data from personal health devices."

"The more and more these devices are being asked to work together," said Wilson, "the more and more healthcare providers will find themselves acting upon information coming from these devices."

But the EU and businesses "only have soft tools for affecting things," she said, "so the changes may come very slowly."

John Brosky, Contributing Writer