The European Commission should continue supporting a wider use of digital tools in healthcare, according to the eHealth Stakeholder Group, a European Commission advisory body. There are 4 major areas on which the group presented specific suggestions for action.

The future of healthcare is digital

The group has recently published four reports focusing on key challenges for healthcare, such as ensuring patients have access to their electronic health records, supporting wider deployment of telemedicine services, increasing interoperability among eHealth solutions and healthcare systems, and supporting greater accessibility of healthcare via ICT tools in the EU.

1. The first report on "Patient access to the electronic health record" provides a state of play of patients' access to their Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the European Union. Denmark and Estonia are EU leaders in the field, while most other countries are taking active steps to introduce EHRs (e.g. Portugal, France, Malta, Poland, Austria etc.), sometimes experiencing drawbacks related to privacy concerns. The report suggests Member States and eHealth actors take measures to boost Europeans' access to their personal EHRs, e.g. by ensuring secure storage of EHRs or by taking into account the needs of vulnerable groups when developing such tools (e.g. visual impairment or language level).

2. The second report, on "Widespread deployment of Telemedicine Services in Europe", gives concrete examples of how telemedicine services can benefit healthcare systems (e.g. supporting telemonitoring of patients from home). Moreover, it suggests that the legal ground for telemedicine services should be the informed consent of the patient. It also suggests among others that to increase user acceptance and trust in telemedicine safety and reliability standards should be comparable to those applicable to conventional health services.

3. The third report, on "Perspectives and recommendations on Interoperability", contains an overview of the most used standards in eHealth throughout the EU, as well as a list of all EU projects dealing with interoperability in eHealth. It also recommends, for example, that efforts towards interoperability in healthcare focus on a set of priority use cases, like patient summaries (i.e. basic health records) or ePrescription, to ensure systems "talk to each other" where it's mostly needed.

4. The last report, on "Health inequalities and eHealth", presents a list of best practices from different EU countries showing how eHealth solutions can help overcome health inequalities and increase healthcare access, in particular of disadvantaged groups. .For example, in Sweden, tackling health inequalities is an integral part of the national eHelath strategy while the UK is a frontrunner of eInclusion initatives.

The Commission will analyse these recommendations and will integrate the most relevant ones in its eHealth policy. In particular, we are looking forward to finding among these reports some great ideas to help us in the implementation of our eHealth Action Plan, a major policy initiative covering the period 2012-2020 and providing a roadmap to empower patients and healthcare workers, to link up devices and technologies, and to invest in research towards the personalised medicine of the future.