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European Commission Aims to Put Patients in the Driver’s Seat

Von: Finn Snyder (adapted)

For ten years now, the European Commission has been active in the area of eHealth. Very recently, it unveiled a further “Action Plan” addressing impediments to the full use of digital solutions in European healthcare systems. The goal is to improve medical services, increase patient’s control over their care, and cut costs.
Already, according to Commission spokespeople, patients and health professionals are embracing telehealth solutions, and millions of Europeans have downloaded smartphone apps to keep track of their health. However, IT used in care provider organizations is still quite far from realizing the envisaged, and required, quality and cost benefits.
“Europe's healthcare systems aren't yet broken, but the cracks are beginning to show”, underlined Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda. “It's time to give this twentieth century model a health check. The new European eHealth Action Plan sets out how we can bring digital benefits to healthcare, and lift the barriers to smarter, safer, patient-centered health services.”
The new Action Plan aims to accelerate penetration and adoption. It is designed to achieve that by “clarifying areas of legal uncertainty, by improving interoperability between systems, by increasing awareness and skills among patients and healthcare professionals, by putting patients at the centre with initiatives related to personal health management and supporting research into personalized medicine, and by ensuring free legal advice for start-up eHealth businesses, according to a summary put out the Commission.
Further, the Commission will issue an mHealth “Green Paper” by 2014. That document will address quality and transparency issues regarding related technologies. A “Staff Working Paper” accompanying the Action Plan provides an overview of how current EU legislation applies to cross-border telemedicine. In that document, healthcare practitioners interested in delivering cross-border telemedicine will find clarification on licensing and registration issues, on the processing of health data as well as on reimbursement and on applicable liability regimes.
Members of the eHealth Network, recently established by the Cross-border Healthcare Directive, will support the implementation of the Action Plan.
“eHealth solutions can deliver high quality, patient-centric, healthcare to our citizens”, commented Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. “eHealth brings healthcare closer to people and improves health systems' efficiency. Today's Action Plan will help turn the eHealth potential into better care for our citizens. The eHealth Network under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive channels our joint commitment to find interoperable solutions at EU level.”