eHealth at a glance: What is eHealth?
eHealth means the use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) in support of health and health-related fields, and to meet needs of citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, healthcare providers as well as policy makers. eHealth covers the interaction between citizens/patients and health-service providers, institution-to-institution transmission of data, or peer-to-peer communication between citizens/patients and/or health professionals.
Examples of eHealth applications include:
European Commission's competent Unit for eHealth is the ICT for Health Unit of DG INFSO. It maintains a rich repository of information items on policy and research at EU level.
eHealth policy in the EU
eHealth @ EU
In 2003, during the eHealth Ministerial Conference, ministers welcomed Commission initiatives to promote co-ordination at European level. They also proposed that the targets and objectives laid down in the eEurope Action Plan as well as the Programme of Community Action in the field of Public Health (2003-2008) - set out in decision 1786/2002 - were met in liaison with other Community initiatives.
In 2004, following the results of the conference, the European Commission issued Communication COM (2004) 356 titled "e-Health - making healthcare better for European citizens: An action plan for a European e-Health Area". The Communication subsequently became known as the eHealth Action Plan, 2004-2010. This plan for the period 2004-2010 aimed at enabling the European Union (EU) to achieve the full potential of eHealth systems and services within a European eHealth Area. Its focus was on three priority areas:
In June 2006, the ICT for Health Unit of DG INFSO adopted a new strategy (PDF) which was in line with the Commission's new i2010 policy framework.
In 2007, the European Commission published a report (PDF) on lead market opportunities for eHealth. Several actions and recommendations were proposed in this report, all aimed at accelerating the development of the European eHealth market, increasing economic benefits and simultaneously developing the quality of health products and services. The prospective return on investment of eHealth is relatively high when compared to the costs inherent in the health sector.
In 2008, the European Commission unveiled plans to make eHealth one of the EU's first six Lead Market Initiatives (LMI), (PDF) thus making it a strategic priority. The size of the market and its scope for innovation were cited as principal reasons for eHealth's selection in this role. To this end, the European Commission published an Action Plan for eHealth (PDF) at the end of 2007 that pledged to assess the possibility of adopting a legal initiative for eHealth and telemedicine. It also noted the need for common standards in eHealth and the importance of interoperability. A robust global view of an European eHealth interoperability roadmap has been provided in the framework of the CALLIOPE (PDF) project.
A mid-term progress report (PDF), published in September 2009, recognised that the LMI could stimulate demand-side measures in the Member States even if its full impact would only be expected after five to ten years.
In 2008, the Action Plan for Telemedicine (PDF) was issued in a Commission Communication and included a ten-point roadmap for promoting telemedicine in Europe.
In October 2009, a follow-up of the plan examined the progress achieved. In the same year, Member States agreed on the importance of developing further the so-called eHealth Governance Initiative to bring forward eHealth for the "deployment and actual use of interoperable eHealth services within and between national healthcare systems".
In May 2010, the Digital Agenda for Europe was adopted by the European Commission. eHealth features in the agenda under Pillar 7 ICT for Social Challenges, where the potential of ICT is used to revolutionises health services and deliver better public services.
In 2011 the Cross-border Health Care Directive (PDF) sets an EU-wide framework for cross-border access to healthcare services. Article 14 on interoperability calls for the creation of a network on eHealth. In May 2011, this "European Voluntary eHealth Network" was launched during the European eHealth Ministerial Conference, during the eHealth Week. Finally, in the same year, the newly created eHealth Task Force met for the first time at the eHealth Week in Budapest with its mandate to assess the role of ICT in health and social care. The eHealth Task Force will advise the European Commission on how to unlock the potential of eHealth for safer, better and more efficient health care in Europe and also explore the relationships between eHealth, telemedicine and social policy.
eHealth @ MS
Current status of eHealth in the Member States suggests that an important progress has occurred at several levels:
eHealth @ ePractice.eu
eHealth at ePractice.eu aims at grasping all benefits provided by the ePractice collaborative tools in order to foster community building, initiatives and synergies in the area of eHealth. ePractice maintains a knowledge repository of good practices among researchers and practitioners. A growing number of practical cases, news, library items, communities and event announcements are present in the portal.
Past and forthcoming events related to eHealth are regularly posted by ePractice members and the ePractice editorial team.
The News section hosts concrete achievements and future announcements concerning public agencies or private entities.
The Library section provides a database of policy and strategy documents, reports, white papers, surveys and articles, covering several eHealth topics across the EU.
The following eHealth communities are currently published on ePractice:
eHealth Procurers Forum: This Community is oriented towards practitioners from European national and regional administrations, from public and private organisations, from academia and research centers in the field of eHealth procurement in Europe. The Community has organised one workshop, published articles and issued a number of newsletters.
Telemedicine Forum: This Community aims at bringing together practitioners involved in telemedicine services in Europe to meet and share their experiences and knowledge on legal, organisational (including sustainability, business models) and technical aspects of telemedicine services. The Community has organised one workshop, published several articles, and issued a number of newsletters.
The following eHealth workshops have been organised previously:
More eHealth events and workshops are forthcoming. Stay informed by regularly visiting the ePractice Events & Workshop page.
To keep up-to-date on the latest eGovernment, eHealth, and eInclusion developments, initiatives and insights from across Europe and beyond, you may subscribe to the weekly European ePractice Newsletter (it requires a prior registration to ePractice).
Snapshot of eHealth information on ePractice