The European Union’s health ministers met in Tallinn this week to discuss the future of digital solutions in health care. They identified areas where they will cooperate more closely, and potential issues where the EU can take action to promote the development of data-driven solutions.
According to a Thursday press release, the areas for further cooperation identified by the ministers include the better alignment of regulatory and data governance approaches implementing new EU data protection rules, extending the cross-border health data exchange, and building common data platforms to facilitate the repeat use of data for research and innovation.
Minister for Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) chaired the meeting. Ossinovski said that the EU member states were all faced with similar challenges in their efforts to ensure the sustainability of their health systems. Digital technologies could be used to support the overall health policy goals.
“In e-health the European countries have been collaborating now for many years, and important progress has been made in the implementation of electronic health record systems and e-prescriptions,” Ossinovski said. “Yet we can do much more together to facilitate the use of digital technologies for the benefit of our people.”
Better prevention and treatment of diseases
With the spread of digital technologies, large amounts of data are produced in the health sector that could be used for advanced data analysis to support the prevention and treatment of diseases, and to contribute to research and innovation, an approach also suggested by MIT professor and digital society visionary Alex Pentland at the Estonian EU council presidency’s digital single market conference on Monday this week.
“Europe has embraced the technological transformation, boldly seizing the opportunities it has offered, but rapid change and new technologies also create vulnerabilities and concerns,” Ossinovski went on.
“Our task is to balance the risks and benefits, and to find ways to ensure that the data is used securely and in a transparent way. This also means empowering patients by giving them the right to easily access their own personal health data, to decide how this data is used, and providing them with the means to do it in a secure and convenient manner all over the EU.”
EU funding mechanisms would play an important role in member states’ investments in ICT solutions and e-health, the ministers found.
The discussions on the future of e-health will continue in Tallinn in October, when the Estonian EU council presidency will host a high-level conference with the title “Health in the Digital Society. Digital Society for Health”.
Editor: Dario Cavegn