(HealthTech Wire / Interview) - Next year in Copenhagen the European Commission’s Ministerial Conference on eHealth will celebrate its tenth anniversary. This year, at eHealth Week in Budapest, HealthTech Wire spoke to the European Commission’s Director-General for Information Society and Media, Robert Madelin, about what will have changed between now and then with regards to eHealth adoption in Europe — especially given this year’s bold call for action.
Mr. Madelin, what is the Commission doing to advance the implementation of eHealth in Europe?
There are a number of initiatives, all geared towards action and results. I have just returned from a meeting of the high-level eHealth governance group. It has been decided to transform this group into the voluntary eHealth Network established by Article 14 on eHealth of the recently adopted Directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
The voluntary eHealth Network connects national authorities to help Member States facilitate the transmission of data in cross-border care scenarios. This can range from introducing a portable electronic healthcare ID to agreeing common guidelines for developing technical and semantic interoperability. During the meeting we outlined recommendations for the chair of the Health Network to present to the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2011.
What are these recommendations?
The definition of a minimum dataset for patient summaries and the establishment of standards for interoperability and guidelines for the reuse of data. The high level group will also set priorities for a future eHealth Action Plan and define key action points for the progress of eHealth in Europe.
What do you think is currently hindering the rapid progress of eHealth?
We have to align politics, high-end research and pragmatic initiatives to move jointly towards the adoption of eHealth and deliver results. With a variety of targeted actions, the Commission wants to lead Europe’s eHealth stakeholders out of silo thinking – and I believe this is now possible.
For example, we launched the eHealth Task Force yesterday to get intelligent people to think outside the box and ask some fundamental questions: ‘Are we moving in the right direction? Are we taking the required actions?’ This one-year initiative is chaired by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, and it is clearly aimed at connecting all stakeholders and moving them closer to eHealth users: healthcare professionals and patients.
Europe’s 2020 strategy and its Innovation Union Initiative are widely believed to benefit eHealth implementation. Have you any views on this?
With over 30 action points, the Innovation Union aims to improve conditions and access to finance for research and innovation in Europe. It is bridging the gap between research and deployment: innovative eHealth ideas must be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs. I am happy to see that due to the efforts and investments in the past years, the European eHealth market is now at a stage where it can start growing on its own.
A big topic at eHealth week this year is the partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. What is the thinking behind this initiative?
It is a multi-stakeholder partnership, involving industry, policy, research and the service sector to bring solutions to the market that can improve the care of the elderly and help them to live independently. We now need to invest in order to move from pilot projects towards full-scale implementation. The Partnership can help with pre-commercial procurement and provide the reality checks needed to avoid a misguided technology push. A strategic implementation plan is scheduled for autumn 2011. A report on work in progress can be expected by the end of the year.
It is anticipated that eHealth Week 2012 in Copenhagen will provide a reality check for Europe’s eHealth efforts. Where do you think we will be by then?
There is clearly an increased degree of confidence that we will achieve our goals. The eHealth taskforce will have filed its report, the epSOS testing phase will have been completed and assessed, a new eHealth Strategy Paper will have been launched and the voluntary eHealth network will have begun to prepare its first round of decisions. Together with a new framework programme for research, these initiatives will lead to a push in adopting eHealth services in the European Union. The European Commission for its part is certainly putting a great deal of resources and dedication into it.
Source: HealthTech Wire. This is a HealthTech Wire Interview. © so2say communications. All rights reserved.