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European eHealth network to be set up

EC aims to improve the safety and efficiency of patient care across Europe

The European Commission is to set up an eHealth network to help drive technological innovations such as tele-monitoring and e-prescriptions, and improve the safety and efficiency of patient care.

The Commission's network will bring together national authorities responsible for eHealth to ensure electronic health systems can work together across Europe and to promote the wider use of healthcare practices supported by electronic processes and information communication technologies (ICTs).

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli said: "eHealth has the potential to deliver better healthcare to more people in a more sustainable manner.

“I am confident that the eHealth network will play a key role in making eHealth a reality across Europe: so that routine medical checks are performed in the comfort of our homes via telemonitoring; so that we take our ePrescription along with our eTicket when we travel, with the confidence that our medical information follows us everywhere in the EU; so that all Europeans can access the best possible healthcare wherever they are."

The EC said eHealth has a central role to play in making health systems more efficient and effective.

It could potentially do this by allowing remote diagnosis, remote monitoring of patients' conditions and secure sharing of patient records between healthcare professionals. The eHealth Network is expected to play a key role in facilitating the future development of such services across Europe.

The eHealth network was set up under article 14 of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive (2011/24/EU) of March 2011, which was in turn adopted on 22 December, 2011. Member States have until October 25, 2013 to pass their own laws implementing the Directive, and the eHealth network it outlines will function on a voluntary basis.

It will initially be tasked with drawing up guidelines on:

• A minimum set of common data to be included in patients' summaries

• Methods for using medical information for public health and medical research

• Common identification and authentication measures to ensure transferability of data in cross-border healthcare.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said: “The new eHealth Network promises to bring the health benefits of the digital economy to citizens across Europe.

"Interoperable eHealth can help improve the safety and efficiency of care of millions of Europeans who travel within the EU every year.”

Kroes was recently full of praise for a UK telehealth pilot, the largest ever randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world, that saw mortality rates reduced by a 45 per cent.

In December the Digital Agenda for Europe, which Kroes leads, released its annual progress report. This concluded eHealth and telemedicine would be key to the “long term sustainability of healthcare systems”, currently increasingly challenged by an ageing population and a shortage of resources.

The EC aims this year to run two pilot projects of its own that will give patients online access to their health records, as part of a drive towards the widespread deployment of telemedicine.

The pilots are expected to involve over 20 regions in different Member States, and will be proceeded by a staff working paper on legal issues around the deployment of telemedicine.

The potential for technology to improve healthcare has also attracted pharma company interest.

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said last month there was an “unprecedented opportunity” for technology to improve access to healthcare in the emerging world, and he singled out rising mobile phone use in Africa as a key advance.

3rd January 2012

From: Marketing

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