eHealth : Digital health and care

Overview

Digital health and care refers to tools and services that use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and management of health and lifestyle. Digital health and care has the potential to innovate and improve access to care, quality of care, and to increase the overall efficiency of the health sector.

Digital Single Market Strategy

Enhancing the use of digital technology through the creation of a Digital Single Market (DSM) is one of the European Commission's main priorities. Launched in 2015, the DSM aims to open up digital opportunities to people and business, and to bring the EU's single market into the digital age. Health is one of the sectors included in this agenda, given the potential benefits that digital services have to offer citizens and enterprises in this area.

A mid-term review of the DSM conducted in May 2017 highlighted a strong willingness to facilitate the  accessing and sharing of health data for research or treatment purposes, and to encourage patient feedback regarding the quality of health services.

Communication on Digital Health and Care

The Commission's Communication on the Transformation of Digital Health and Care of April 2018 aims to enhance the digitisation of the health and care sectors. The Communication identifies 3 pillars around which activities will be based:

Pillar 1: Secure data access and sharing

To facilitate greater cross-border healthcare access, the Commission is building eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure which will allow e-prescriptions and patient summaries to be exchanged between healthcare providers. The first cross-border exchanges are due to take place during 2018, with the aim to have all other EU countries on board by 2020. In the longer term, the Commission is working towards a European electronic health record exchange format accessible to all EU citizens.

Pillar 2: Connecting and sharing health data for research, faster diagnosis and improved health

The decentralised European digital health infrastructure will facilitate tailored diagnosis and treatment, help health services to be better prepared to respond to cross-border health threats, and improve the development and surveillance of medical products.

Pillar 3: Strengthening citizen empowerment and individual care through digital services

Digital services can improve prevention and management of chronic conditions, and allow patients to provide feedback to healthcare providers. Health systems will also benefit from innovative care models that use telehealth and mHealth to address the rising demand for healthcare.

E-health glossary:
 
  • Patient summaries
    Patient summaries collect main essential health data of each patient. They will be accessible to health professionals in the EU, facilitating tailored care for EU citizens even when accessing services in other EU countries.
  • e-prescriptions and e-dispensations
    Patients abroad can receive similar medication to that of their home countries through e-prescriptions and e-dispensations.
    e-prescribing permits the electronic transmission of a prescription to a pharmacy while e-dispensing  refers to the electronic retrieval of a prescription and supply of the medicine to the patient.
  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
    EHRs refer to the comprehensive medical records of an individual that are accessible in electronic form.