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Europe needs new legal basis for health data, says eHealth Task Force

European healthcare also needs fundamental reorganisation if it is to benefit from IT advances

EU eHealth Task Force report

There has been an “explosion of health data” in Europe and the region's policy makers must act quickly to put a new legal framework in place for it, according to the EU's eHealth Task Force.

It is headed up by Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who said European healthcare needs a “fundamental re-organisation” just to make use of current information technologies

“We know from a wide range of other services that information technology applications can radically revolutionise and improve the way we do things. We know as well, from innovative approaches already used around the EU, that many solutions to the impending crisis in healthcare already exist,” he said.

But, he added, European healthcare is at least 10 years behind virtually every other area when it comes to implementing IT solutions.

The region, which has an increasing proportion of elderly people, faces tough questions on how to ensure healthcare is affordable and still keep up with the latest medical advances, and how to provide high quality healthcare across the region to an increasingly mobile population.

“[The] solutions are often not medical at all, but rather deal with how in the future we will need to treat data, privacy, research as well as the physician/patient relationship,” Ilves said.

“Since not only EU citizens but also their data move across borders, we require an EU approach, where we harmonise our legislation so everyone can operate using the same rules.”

But he warned that if such an approach cannot be found “we can rest assured that other solutions will be found, either mutually incompatible national rules or private sector initiatives, where our fundamental rights may not be guaranteed”. 

The eHealth Task Force's report, Redesigning health in Europe for 2020, identifies five 'levers for change':

• My data, my decisions

• Liberate the data

• Connect up everything

• Revolutionise health

• Include everyone.

Each is interconnected, the report says, but the starting point is “enacting individual ownership of personal health data”.

“Releasing the data from different silos throughout the health and care system and connecting to the vibrant digital environment for health information will transform the landscape of health. The principle of ensuring that all citizens can use and benefit from eHealth will create opportunities for innovation.”

The report also makes five recommendations:

• A new legal basis for health data in Europe

• Create a 'beacon group' of Member States and regions committed to open data and eHealth

• Support health literacy 

• Use the power of data

• Re-orient EU funding and policies.

The first of these is the most urgent, says the Task Force and its calls upon policy makers to act quickly, “while they still can”, to create a legal framework and space to manage the explosion of health data.

“This needs to put in place the safeguards that will allow citizens to use health apps with confidence that their data is handled appropriately and subsequently it will create the conditions for the integration of user-generated data with official medical data so that care can be more integrated, personalised and useful for patients,” the report says.

10th May 2012

From: Marketing

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