The host of the meeting, Austrian Federal Minister Beate Hartinger-Klein, emphasised the importance of digitalisation in the healthcare system: "There is no doubt that the provision and use of personal digital health data in diagnostics and therapy in the event of illness is in the public interest".
She stressed that "Every single member of a health profession, whether in medicine or in nursing, is better supported by the use of digital health data: if you know more about the patients to be treated, you can offer them a better diagnosis, therapy or care".
In addition, the provision and use of digital health data is also of enormous importance for research and science. That is one of the main reasons why she, representing Austria, signed the declaration for sharing access to one Million genomes in the EU by 2020.
The health ministers and national representatives were unanimously happy that Austria had put eHealth on the agenda, and were generally supportive of further investments at EU and national- regional level and of interoperability of health data. In his conclusions, Director General Roberto Viola (DG Connect, European Commission) repeated that the exchange of Electronic Health Records between institutions and across borders is not about harmonisation but about interoperability.
Not at the beginning
The ministers and representatives realised that due to technical barriers, large parts of the existing digital infrastructure in the healthcare system are not, or only to a very limited extent, suitable for data exchange outside their respective organisations. It is thus necessary to identify concrete steps to be taken in order to overcome these barriers.
"On the positive side we can ascertain that we, as member states of the European Union, are by no means at the beginning in the field of eHealth – or digital health", stressed both the ministers and the representatives of the European institutions.
Working closely together
As a result of the discussions, the EU member states agreed to work closely with the services of the European Commission within the framework of the eHealth Network that is already in place at EU level, in order to develop a guideline for targeted Europe-wide promotion and investment programmes in the eHealth sector. The aim is to make the existing infrastructure of thousands of health service providers fit for the future.
- Watch the event video
- Press release of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU
- Informal meeting of health ministers event page