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European Commission: Better Use of Health Data Will Transform the Healthcare Landscape

A high-level group of experts today warned that Europeans will only be able to benefit from the affordable, less intrusive and more personalised healthcare which Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) can bring if agreement is reached on how to use health data.

The group, headed by the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, delivered this and other recommendations for redesigning health in Europe to Vice President Neelie Kroes and Commissioner John Dalli at eHealth Week 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The eHealth Task Force was established a year ago (see IP/11/551) to advise the Commission on how to unlock the potential of eHealth for safer, better and more efficient healthcare in Europe.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda and John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health & Consumer Policy said

“Information and communication technologies are making our health systems more efficient and sustainable. This report from the eHealth Task Force puts the spotlight on the importance of health data, health literacy and exchange of good practice on eHealth. How we’ll manage data will be critical for the effectiveness of our health research, diagnostics and healthcare delivery. It will enable people to play a more central role in the management of their health. Supporting health literacy is also key for patient empowerment and for building trust in eHealth solutions. We believe Member States have much to gain from learning from one another’s eHealth experience rather than reinventing the wheel.”

The five recommendations to the European Commission:

  • To create a legal framework and space to manage the massive amounts of health-related data. Implement safeguards so that citizens can use health applications (“apps”) with the confidence that their data will be handled appropriately. This could boost the integration of user-generated data with official medical data, leading to healthcare that is more integrated and personalised and therefore delivers better outcomes.
  • Support health literacy: Health data needs to be available in a form that patients can understand. More needs to be done to explain to people how integrating appropriately anonymised data into a central system can improve healthcare for them.
  • Create a ‘beacon group’ of Member States and regions committed to open data and eHealth, including pioneers in eHealth applications.
  • Use data power: eHealth applications must prove worthy of users’ trust. Only then will users make their data available for feedback on preventive care or for benchmarking and monitoring performance of health systems.
  • Re-orient EU funding and policies – specific eHealth budget lines need to be responsive and to enable the development of good ideas into fast prototyping and testing. Transparency should be required from health institutions through procurement and funding criteria.

Open data

In a speech on 5 March 2012, Bratislava she said on the topic of open data:

“Let me underline one initiative that I am supporting to make digital technology work for governance and transparency: by opening up public data. In the digital age, data takes on a whole new value, and with new technology we can do great things with it. Opening it up is not just good for transparency, it also stimulates great web content, and provides the fuel for a future economy.”