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Europe wants to break down barriers to digital healthcare

Commission unveils eHealth Action Plan to increase the pace of change

Mobile helath 

The European Commission has outlined its plans to get more healthcare systems using digital technology to improve patients' health outcomes.

Unveiling its new eHealth Action Plan, the Commission said it wants to increase the pace of change so the full benefits of 'digital healthcare' can be seen.

Neelie Kroes, Commission vice president for the digital agenda, said: "Europe's healthcare systems aren't yet broken, but the cracks are beginning to show. It's time to give this 20th 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-centred health services."

Such services could include digital communication between patients and healthcare providers, peer-to-peer communication by patients, electronic health records, and wearable and portable personal health systems.

Noting that, despite the economic crisis, the global telemedicine market grew from $9.8bn in 2010 to $11.6bn in 2011, while the global mHealth market is set to grow to €17.5bn by 2017, the Commission said its action plan would:

• Clarify areas of legal uncertainty and improve interoperability between systems

• Increase awareness and skills among patients and healthcare professionals

• Put patients at the centre with initiatives related to personal health management and supporting research into personalised medicine

• Ensuring free legal advice for start-up eHealth businesses

Assisting in the plan's implementation will be the eHealth Network the Commission launched earlier this year. Its tasks will also include bringing together all EU Member States to work on guidelines for the interoperability of eHealth.

Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy, said: "eHealth solutions can deliver high quality, patient-centric, healthcare to our citizens. eHealth brings healthcare closer to people and improves health systems' efficiency.

“[This] action plan will help turn the eHealth potential into better care for our citizens."

The Commission's future plans include, from 2013, focusing on increasing citizens' digital health literacy, while developing “evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for telemedicine services with particular emphasis on nursing and social care workers“.

The Commission also committed to issue a mHealth (Mobile Health) Green Paper by 2014 to address quality and transparency issues.

12th December 2012

From: Healthcare

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