Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Focus

The EU and e-health: a European disease

  • This year's e-health week will take place in Copenhagen. (Photo: quietdangst)

Healthcare, strictly speaking, is none of the EU's business. It is a sensitive issue that member states have largely preferred to keep in their own hands. They have allowed the EU to do little more than "support, co-ordinate, or supplement."

It is only when healthcare enters the realm of, say, competition or fundamental rights, that the European Commission is allowed to draft legislation - like on the harmonisation of medical devices, or more recently, patients' rights in cross-border healthcare.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

On e-health, therefore, much of the Brussels oeuvre consists of communications, recommendations, action plans, conferences and the odd pilot project.

It is one of the reasons why the adoption of e-health across the continent has been slow.

Already in 2004, when e-health was first put on the European agenda by way of a six-year action plan, the EU envisaged "a seamless exchange of health information across Europe." Eight years later, that remains little more than a pipedream.

In fact, much of the action plan does. "Nearly all actions of importance were delayed and some have not been fulfilled at all," according to the commission's assessment report, published in August 2011, which describes the plan as "naive."

"Increasingly, the EU is realising the complexity of the issue," says Joerg Artmann of research company Empirica, who have conducted several studies on e-health for the European Commission. "The real obstacle is never the technology. It is the different legal systems."

This was the case with today’s most prominent pilot project, epSOS, which is to lay the groundwork for a union-wide system of easily exchangeable patient data by 2015.

"It is the apogee of years and years of discussion and rewriting," says Artmann. "It is a kind of laboratory test to understand why things take so long. It is unbelievably hard."

The European Commission is not letting itself be put off too easily, however.

It believes e-health will not only help solve the problem of having to provide more healthcare with less money, when half of Europeans are old, but also boost the economy.

Together with the EU presidency, it continues to organise its annual e-health week - the next will take place in Copenhagen from 7 to 9 May - when national health ministers traditionally declare their support to the deployment of e-health across the continent.

It made e-health part of its Digital Agenda, a plan to digitise the European economy by 2020, and aims to give citizens online access to their medical data by 2015 and to achieve the widespread use of telemedicine services by 2020.

In 2008, it identified the e-health industry as one of six so-called Lead Market Initiatives, markets that are believed to be innovative and enjoy particular attention from the EU's harmonising efforts.

More recently, the European Commission convened both an e-health network and an e-health task force of national authorities and experts in the field respectively, to consult on the way forward and to provide input for, yes, a new action plan, to be presented after the summer this year.

Putting the 'e' in e-health

The 'e' has become a familiar sight before words like book or commerce, while health has long been spared the token affix of the digital age. But now e-health has arrived and seems set to revolutionise traditional healthcare.

Power to the patient

Doctors, it is said, are not what can be called early adopters of new technologies. Any healthcare revolution, then, will have to come through patients. Or rather, consumers, because patients of the 21st century make their own decisions.

Healthcare without borders

The town hospital of Guriceel, Somalia, is understaffed. The doctors who once worked there have all but fled the fighting that mars the country since decades. Those who remain often lack in education. But they do have an internet connection.

E-health business is good business

The e-health industry is growing fast. Ten years ago, it was "microscopic". But over the last couple of years, it has "exploded". Today, it is the third largest industry in healthcare.

Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift

EU leaders at their summit spent some three hours deliberating on relations with Turkey before asking the EU commission to come up with a plan on cutting and reorienting some €4.5 billion in pre-accession aid.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks