Although the development and deployment of eHealth solutions in healthcare systems is a national competence, the EU is committed to providing support through funding and platforms where EU countries can collaborate on eHealth-related issues. Some aspects like interoperability or quality standards are addressed at European level through coordinated action and digital alignment.
Policy cooperation platforms
Several structures provide a platform for collaboration and cooperation:
- The eHealth Network set up under Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare connects national authorities responsible for eHealth. In this forum, EU countries can give direction to eHealth developments in Europeby playing an important role in strategic e-Health related decision-making on interoperability and standardisation. Its activities are based on priorities set out in its 2018-2021 Multiannual Work Plan (MWP).
- The Joint Action supporting the eHealth Network, called eHAction (eHealth Action), was launched in 2018 and is the 3rd Joint Action following the two previous successful ones. The main purpose is to support the eHealth network with technical and scientific advice, to facilitate cross-border healthcare across the EU and necessary policy support to the eHealth Digital Service infrastructure (eHDSI). eHAction develops strategic recommendations and instruments to support the political discussions between eHealth Network, Member States and the Commission on four priority areas: (i) empowering people, (i) innovative use of health data, (iii) enhancing continuity of care and (iv) overcoming implementation challenges, which are based on eHealth Network Multiannual Work Programmer for the period 2018 - 2021. It is financed by the European third Health Programme.
- The eHealth stakeholder group (eHSG) is composed of representatives of European umbrella organisations/associations or organisations with a European outreach in the fields of research, industry, standardisation and associations representing users (patients, professionals, providers etc) active in the eHealth sector. Its primary objective is to contribute to the development of eHealth policy at EU level. Established in 2012, it has 30 members, and a mandate until end 2022.
Technical IT cooperation - the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure
The eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI) facilitates the cross-border exchange of health data including patient summaries and e-prescription. Through 'core services', the European Commission is providing a common ICT infrastructure and crosscutting services (terminology, interoperability etc.) to EU countries. They can then set up 'generic services' to connect national eHealth systems through 'National Contact Points for eHealth (eHealth NCPs)', with financial assistance from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The eHealth DSI Member States Expert Group (eHMSEG) is composed of managers responsible for implementing the eHealth NCPs, and nominated by the participating countries. Members participate in the deployment and operation of eHealth cross border infrastructure and are responsible for setting up eHealth National Contact Points.
The eHealth Operational Management Board (eHOMB) is composed of representatives of internal services of the European Commission and the eHMSEG. It oversees the provision of services, and takes tactical and operational decisions on the eHDSI.
EU financial support
In order to implement its policy in the field of eHealth, the Commission relies on several financial instruments:
- The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) supports trans-European networks and infrastructure in the sectors of transport, telecommunications and energy. It finances projects that address common challenges through the provision of technical and organisational expertise. A 2016 call for proposals aimed to support EU countries in building a link between their national health systems and the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI).
- The third Health Programme (2014-2020) supported the Joint Actions and has co-financed several projects in the area of eHealth.
- Horizon 2020 - the EU’s biggest research programme - supports research, innovation and cooperation in the area of ICT for health and wellbeing. It also encourages SMEs to scale up eHealth solutions and tap into markets abroad.