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European Commission launches mHealth consultation

May lead to policy action by 2015

Mobile medical apps mHealth healthThe European Commission last week launched its long-awaited mobile health (mHealth) consultation and suggested policy action could be forthcoming as early as next year.

The Commission wants views on how best to use mobile devices like mobile phones, tablets, patient monitoring devices and other wireless devices to improve health and wellbeing.

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, was unequivocal in her support for the emerging area, having first outlined the Green Paper back in 2012.

"mHealth will reduce costly visits to hospitals, help citizens take charge of their own health and wellbeing, and move towards prevention rather than cure. It is also a great opportunity for the booming app economy and for entrepreneurs,” she said.

Outlining benefits from better use of mHealth services the Commission said the technology would: 

• Put patients in control, giving them greater independence and helping to prevent health problems

• Make healthcare system more efficient, with vast potential for cost-savings

• Create opportunities for innovative services, start-ups and the app economy.

The economic argument is an important one for the Commission - the European app economy is already worth €17.5bn and responsible for 1.8 million jobs.

Furthermore the Commission says that if mHealth's potential is “fully unlocked” it could save €99bn in healthcare costs in the EU, but to do so issues like mHealth app safety, usage of data and whether apps are medical devices need to be addressed.

One that last point it's more than two years since the first mobile health app was registered in the UK as a medical device. Subsequent developments likely to have caught the Commission's eye include developments in the US, where the FDA took a tailored approach to mobile health app regulation last year.

The three month consultation will run until July 3 and the Commission hopes to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders, including patients' organisations, healthcare professionals, app developers and mobile device manufacturers.

European Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg said: "mHealth has a great potential to empower citizens to manage their own health and stay healthy longer, to trigger greater quality of care and comfort for patients, and to assist health professionals in their work. As such, exploring mHealth solutions can contribute to modern, efficient and sustainable health systems."

15th April 2014

From: Healthcare

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