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Volume: 4 Issue: 8
(August 2017)

eu commission sets out roadmap communication transforming healthcare digital single market 19 july 2017 european commission (‘ec published roadmap relating

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EU Commission sets out roadmap for its Communication on transforming healthcare in the Digital Single Market

On 19 July 2017, the European Commission (‘EC’) published its Roadmap relating to its policy communication on the ‘Transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market’ (the ‘Communication’), which the EC is planning to adopt in Q4 2017, as was originally suggested in the EC’s Digital Single Market Mid-Term Review of May this year.

The Roadmap identifies problems facing European digital health that the EC’s Communication will look to address, such as the ‘slow and fragmented’ uptake of digital technologies in mainstream healthcare in Member States, improving the efficiency, accessibility and funding for healthcare to account for the demands of the ageing population, providing greater access to health data and advanced computing between Member States, and making electronic health record systems interoperable anywhere in the EU.

“The Commission is clearly prioritising digital health, and there has been a flurry of activity over the last year,” comments Jackie Mulryne, Counsel at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. “However, as the range of technologies in this area constantly evolves, the Commission is finding it hard to keep up. It does seem that the Commission has learnt from the issues that arose when developing the guidelines on mHealth assessment and a more step-wise approach is being used here, starting with identifying the need for and scope of further policy measures. Ultimately, this is the first stage of a long process before all of the aims of the Roadmap can be met.”

The Roadmap states that the ‘The Communication will outline actions to support voluntary cross-border cooperation mechanisms with Member States in order to advance digital health and care transformation.’ Piet Weinrich, Counsel at Osborne Clarke, believes that Member States need a stronger incentive to accelerate the uptake of digital health solutions. “I am convinced that the EC has - finally - realised just what kind of potential lies in digital health. Unfortunately the Member States have not all treated this topic with the same priority, with the result being that there is a very diverse legal landscape in which digital health pioneers need to operate,” comments Weinrich. “I very much welcome any EC initiative that advances the environment for digital health innovation and application as well as ‘forces’ Member States to include the topic in their agendas.”

The day after publication of the Roadmap, the EC launched a public consultation on Health and Care in the Digital Single Market (the ‘Consultation’) on 20 July 2017. The Consultation, which invites engagement from a range of stakeholders in European digital health as well as from EU citizens, was launched with the purpose of determining ‘how Europe should promote digital innovation in health and care, for the benefits of citizens and health systems in Europe.’ The Consultation outlines three ‘pillars’ on which the EC wishes to collect information, which will help inform its policy communication. These pillars are: citizens’ secure access to their health data and the interoperability of electronic health records across Member States, the sharing of health data in order to advance research, and the use of digital services to empower citizens and promote patient-centred care. Weinrich hopes that the EC will take further action. “The valid problems addressed by the Roadmap would require swift and coordinated measures - something unlikely to be achieved through a policy communication alone. In this regard the three pillars initiated by the EC are wisely chosen as they concern areas that are likely to be easier to manoeuvre politically as well as legally, but simultaneously have the potential to form platforms for future projects. Hopefully, successes in these pilots will help accelerate the advancement of Europe's digital health landscape as a whole.”

The EC’s Consultation is open for comments until 12 October 2017.

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