Check against delivery.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to speak to you today, about digital innovation in health, care and cure.

Whether we are healthy citizens or chronic patients, digital innovation offers solutions to monitor, prevent, and more generally improve our health and wellness.

First, I see a huge potential in the digitalisation of prophylaxes, promotion, protection, and prevention of health, including occupational health. Digital technologies help address mental, social, and behavioural determinants. A digital health society will bring more equality in health.

Here, let me welcome the Digital Health Society Declaration signed at this conference.

Second, I truly believe that digital technology can support to build sustainable, equitable healthcare systems that are accessible to all citizens which face economic challenges.

Europeans are now living longer than ever before. It is estimated that we will have gained almost 5 years in life expectancy by 2060.

High life expectancy is a positive achievement for society, as long as we can spend it in good health.

An ageing society with chronic diseases and multi-morbidity is actually a key factor in the rising cost of healthcare, which represented already close to 10% of GDP in 2015. Helping people stay in good health longer could help addressing the expected increase in spending.

Thanks to the scientific knowledge, effective treatment, and medical technology, what used to be fatal illnesses have become chronic diseases, thereby allowing people to live longer – once they receive the appropriate prophylaxes, prevention or often expensive healthcare treatment.

The growing burden of chronic disease already accounts for up to 70 – 80% of healthcare costs in the EU.

In response to these challenges, EU Member States are introducing new approaches and new models of care with the patient at the centre.

Digital solutions can fulfil an essential role in the prevention and management of chronic diseases by providing insight into our lifestyle behaviour. This type of information can instigate change.

For example: many smartphones come with a digital pedometer counting the number of steps you make or can even register your sleep or diet.

By providing more data, and thereby highlighting what we are doing well and what needs to be improved, digital solutions can prompt positive changes and support healthy lifestyles.

Digital technologies can support patient-centred and community based care and cure models. mHealth apps and wearable solutions place the patient at the centre of care.

Citizens register vital signs and other indicators that could provide valuable feedback to health professionals. This allows health professionals to react more swiftly and more effectively when anomalies are detected.

Furthermore, the use of digital solutions help citizens living in remote areas to access health services more easily, e.g. through tele-consult services.

Also, technology-enabled care, involving the convergence of health technology, digital media and mobile devices enables citizens, patients, carers and healthcare professionals to improve the quality and outcomes of both health and social care.

These applications turn the healthcare sector into a data-intensive community generating massive volumes of information. Clinical, genetic, behavioural and environmental data is generated from an array of devices including electronic health records, genome sequencing machines, patient registries, and now data from mHealth apps.

This data unlocks new opportunities for prevention and healthcare in the development of new therapies and precision medicine, and supports clinical decision-making by health professionals.

Powerful data analytics can discover patterns that will:

  • lead to new prevention, diagnostic and therapeutic avenues;

  • help remove inefficiencies in care processes and reduce waste; and

  • facilitate better management and clinical decisions that will improve the performance of healthcare and cure systems (e.g. in terms of procedures, quality of care, patient safety and patient outcomes).

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Commission carried out a Public Consultation on Health and Care in the Digital Single Market that closed last week. Today I am pleased to share with you the first results: nearly 1500 responses were recorded!

According to the respondents, the most important tasks for the EU are:

  • to develop standards for data quality and reliability

  • to standardise electronic health records to propose health-related cybersecurity standards

  • and to support interoperability with open exchange formats

More than 90% of those who responded to the public consultation agree that citizens should be able to manage their own health data.

Nevertheless, nearly 55% of the respondents indicated that they do not have access to digital health services such as remote monitoring or consultation with doctors, while more than 50% of those would like to have access to such services.

So, despite all the evident benefits to digital solutions, there is still a lot to do in order to realise the full potential of such innovations in health. Europe's fragmented markets, and the lack of interoperability due to different standards across the EU, are still a significant barrier to the successful implementation of eHealth.

The Commission has worked intensively with the eHealth Network to close the interoperability gap and to allow the exchange of health data across borders. Several European initiatives are already underway, others will commence in the near future.

In particular, the Commission and the Member States are finalising preparations for the deployment of a European Digital Service Infrastructure for the exchange of ePrescriptions and Patient Summaries.

As many as 16 EU Member States are involved in developing this infrastructure and we expect the first exchanges of ePrescriptions and Patient Summaries will take place next year. By 2020, most Member States will have joined the exchange – facilitating planned and emergency care across borders.

The European Reference Networks launched this year, are another excellent example for the cross-border deployment of eHealth. More than 900 highly specialised medical teams from 26 European countries are pooling medical expertise and data to provide faster diagnosis and better treatment for patients with a rare, complex or low prevalence diseases.

These Networks will be connected through a dedicated IT platform to be able to convene a "virtual" advisory board of medical specialists across different disciplines to review the patient's case.

I see a lot of opportunities for more cooperation on European Reference Networks. We can use them as backbone for building a European Health Data Eco-system, sharing and pooling of our resources, developing big data issues, and initiating better networking between and within Member States´ healthcare systems.

The 2015 Digital Single Market Strategy and its Mid-term review of this year called to accelerate the development and implementation of digital solutions in health.

I greatly welcome that the Estonian Presidency has made EU cooperation to support digital health innovation a priority.

At the informal Council meeting in July, Health Ministers articulated their willingness to be more ambitious on digital health and to collaborate more effectively on issues such as data security, cybersecurity and new software products for data sharing.

I take this opportunity to once again call on the Member States to cooperate more energetically at regional level, such as the Baltic area or the Mediterranean or Danube region. We need to show our political will to be more ambitious. The Commission is ready to assist you in this cooperation.

We are currently preparing a Communication that will take a fundamental step towards supporting Member States in embracing digital solutions in health.

The Communication will be structured around three pillars:

1. The First pillar will focus on secure access to electronic health records and the possibility of sharing this information across borders.

Next year many citizens will be able to exchange their patient summaries and e-prescriptions across borders. However, we should be more ambitious and aim to share a more complete set of patient data cross-border and foster solutions which give citizens secure access to their health data, wherever they are.

2. The Second pillar focusses on supporting data infrastructures for the purpose of research, prevention, and personalised medicine.

Such data infrastructure and strategy will bring new knowledge for clinical care, together with better diagnostics and treatment. This is particular important for the European Reference Networks.

For infectious diseases, such support would enable the development of tools to improve the surveillance of outbreaks – for instance, risk models and relevant data mining.

Finally, data infrastructures would allow pooling and aggregating individual health data for research to understand how to use in a proper way all types of prevention, therapies and technologies, including pharmaceutical products at socially acceptable prices.

The public consultation showed that almost 65% of respondents agree on the need to further develop infrastructure to pool health data and resources securely across the EU.

3. And finally, the Third pillar will focus on citizen empowerment and fostering person-centred care in support of the wider use of mobile healthcare and telehealth.

Digital tools are an integral part of new care models to address the rising demand for healthcare.

In the public consultation, around half of respondents report not having electronic feedback opportunities while more than 80% agree that feedback to healthcare providers and professionals on the quality of their treatment is essential to improve services.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have now come to a point where we are, across Europe, confronted with common digitisation challenges in health.

At the same time, the recent public consultation showed that there was a very high level of interest and need for urgent EU action in the area of digital health.

Therefore, the momentum to converge our efforts has arrived. Let us all work together with governments, health professionals, businesses, researchers, but above all with the patients to make digital health in Europe a reality.

Thank you.