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01 Dec 2017

Estonia, which is coming to the end of its presidency of the Council of the European Union, has recently sought to bring together EU countries that would be willing to launch a project concerning the cross-border movement of healthcare data.

The Digital Health Society, initiated by the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and ECHAlliance, have assembled an e-Health Declaration that includes more than 100 European organisations’ proposals for developing e-health in Europe.

The Declaration describes the bottlenecks that hamper the development of e-health, such as the lack of people’s trust in e-services in Europe, the lack of interoperability between different information systems, the lack of a clear legal framework, inadequate training of health-care professionals. Proposing solutions for overcoming these obstacles, the document emphasizes the need for unified approaches to the development of data exchange infrastructure, raising people’s awareness of the use of e-health solutions and implementing the European Union Data Protection Regulation in a way that it does not create unnecessary obstacles to the free flow of data between member states.

At the recent e-health conference held in Estonia, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis called for a strong partnership within the EU to move towards simplified public e-services and formalities.

This would make interactions between citizens and public administrations easier.

“Let us all work together with governments, health professionals, businesses, and researchers, but above all with the patients to make digital health in Europe a reality,” he said.

Central to the EU’s agenda on digital innovation in healthcare is: the right of citizens to access, manage and control their health data electronically in a convenient and secure manner; to better use health data, in particular for research and innovation purpose; and the better use of health data, in particular for research and innovation purposes.

Clemens Martin Auer, Director General of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health and Women's Affairs, said that using the opportunities of information technology in healthcare, or e-health, is one of the most important innovative drivers in the healthcare sector: "Especially for organizing the continuous care in the fragmented world of healthcare services."

The EU acknowledges that at that level, although health competence remains the responsibility of each member state, there is a goal for a common understanding to be formed into an agreement that fixes common components and common infrastructure that enables the free flow of health data.

A number of European member states have already designed their healthcare system in order to digitalise data. The remaining member states should implement strategies and policies for the creation of electronic health records across their country in order to stimulate the innovation for health and exchanges data with other EU countries.

MEREDITH HORNE


Published: 01 Dec 2017