On 7 December, the European Commission released its vision for the future deployment of innovative eHealth solutions in the form of the 2012-2020 eHealth Action Plan. This document outlines how the various barriers to the full use of digital solutions in Europe’s healthcare systems can be overcome by focusing on a number of key areas to speed up the process.
The overall goal of the 2012-2020 eHealth Action Plan is threefold: to improve healthcare for the benefit of patients, give patients more control of their care and bring down costs. Actions included in the plan (click here for a detailed chronological overview) aim at improving cross-border availability and interoperability (including electronic health records and patient summaries), increasing digital health literacy amongst citizens, assessing the impact and economic value of eHealth, and developing indicators to measure its added value and benefit, to name only a few.
EPHA welcomes the Commission’s commitment to address the barriers to the widespread uptake of eHealth in Europe including, inter alia, lack of awareness and confidence, lack of interoperability, lack of legal clarity over data collection and reimbursement schemes, and lack of access in deprived regions. Clearly, a lot of progress still needs to be made before eHealth can deliver truly ’citizen-centric’ healthcare. However, the potential to shape new healthcare delivery models is real and if implemented wisely, eHealth solutions can contribute to solving a whole array of challenges faced by Europe’s crumbling health systems today.
Moreover, the Commission will be issuing a Green Paper on eHealth (Mobile Health) by 2014 addressing quality and transparency issues in this rapidly evolving market. Easy-to-use pictorial apps, including games, could become one way of introducing new users and disadvantaged groups to eHealth.
EPHA welcomes the Commission’s recognition that regional differences must be addressed to avoid that Europe becomes a two-tier society where innovation bypasses population groups who may not have the opportunity, inclination or the necessary skills to participate in eHealth, for a number of reasons to do with geography, education, demography, etc.
From EPHA’s perspective, it will be particularly important to create synergies between existing eHealth initiatives and to ensure coherence and legal clarity concerning developments in eHealth / mHealth and other EU policy areas such as cross-border healthcare, data protection, public procurement and health security. The multitude of health ’’apps’’ shows that researcher and patients have an active interest in technology, but patient safety and data ownership become even more sensitive issues online. The European ’’social’’ values of solidarity, universality and equity must stand on equal footing with economic objectives such as stimulating innovation and competition. The global impact of European developments must also be taken into account.
An accompanying Staff Working Document also provides a legal overview of provisions as they apply to cross-border telemedicine in the EU (including areas such as teleradiology, teleconsultation and telemonitoring).
Most of the concerns voiced by EPHA in its Position on the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 are at least being addressed in the new eHealth Action Plan, and EPHA will continue to support the Commission in its efforts to close the digital divide by monitoring the Plan’s progress and scaling up its work on eHealth and health inequalities in 2013.
For further information
European Commission Press Release, 7 Dec 2012 - Putting patients in the driving seat: A digital future for healthcare
Commission Staff Working Document - eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 – innovative healthcare for the 21st century
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