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Digital health and care in Europe: Mid-term review takes stock and looks forward

The European Commission has published the mid-term review of its Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. It takes stock of the progress made, calls on co-legislators to act, and outlines further actions. Digital health and care is one of the topics on the agenda.

date:  15/05/2017

When it comes to eHealth and eCare, the DSM Mid-term Review states the following: Digital technologies can help improve people’s health, and address systemic challenges for healthcare systems. They can offer cost-effective tools to support the transition from a hospital-based health care model to a patient-centred and integrated one, improve access to care, and contribute to the sustainability and resilience of healthcare systems. It is essential that such tools are developed with full respect for data protection rules.

Cross-Border ePrescriptions and patient summary

The Commission is working with Member States through the CEF funding programme (a new €9 Million call is currently open) to ensure that citizens can transfer their basic medical information electronically when receiving treatment in another Member State and use e-prescriptions to get their medication dispensed. This should be operational by 2020 in most EU Member States.

However, more needs to be done so that all citizens can, in full privacy and confidence, access and transfer their complete electronic health record when receiving healthcare abroad.

Pooling expertise and data

High performance computing can unlock the potential of big data for health through advanced data infrastructure and data analytics. The European Reference Networks created this year are a striking demonstration of what Europe can achieve by pooling medical expertise and data for faster diagnosis and treatment of rare and complex diseases.

Further EU action in this area can provide high added value and critical mass. Health data generated in the EU and processed with patients' explicit consent or other legal grounds permitted by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and subject to appropriate safeguards, can advance research in an unprecedented way. It can also enable the early detection of infectious outbreaks and accelerate development of medicines and medical devices, and stimulate innovative healthcare solutions such as telemedicine and mobile health applications.

Medical devices: Two new regulations

Two new Regulations on medical devices were adopted in April 2017 and will become progressively applicable over the next five years. They foresee the establishment of a new comprehensive EU-wide database on medical devices ('Eudamed'), whose big data deployment will serve the development of innovative digital diagnostic and therapeutic solutions and the early detection of safety issues.

Future actions

The Commission will adopt a Communication in 2017 addressing the need and scope for further measures in the area of digital health and care, in line with legislation on the protection of personal data, patient rights and electronic identification, in particular as regards:

  • Citizens' secure access to electronic health records and the possibility to share it across borders and the use of e-prescriptions.
  • Supporting data infrastructure, to advance research, disease prevention and personalised health and care in key areas including rare, infectious and complex diseases.
  • Facilitating feedback and interaction between patients and healthcare providers, to support prevention and citizen empowerment as well as quality and patient-centred care, focussing on chronic diseases and on a better understanding of the outcomes of healthcare systems.

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