European Commission activities in eHealth

Silas Olsson, Andreas Lymberis, Diane Whitehouse
International Journal of Circumpolar Health 2004, 63 (4): 310-6
Health-care is an information-intensive and knowledge-demanding sector, which is why eHealth solutions are so important in this field. The European Commission (EC) has been initiating and funding research and development activities regarding Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for health, or "eHealth", since 1988. These programmes covered priority topics like electronic health-care records, regional and national health networks, telemedicine in homecare and care-at-the-point-of-need to support continuity of care concepts, systems to support people to stay healthy, and systems and tools to support health professionals to work more efficiently and safely on patients. During the 15-year span of the programmes, the European Union (EU) has contributed about 500 million Euro to approximately 400 R&D projects, support activities, best practice and studies covering technical, clinical, ethical, legal, organisational and market issues. eHealth has shown proven benefits in application fields like improved access to care, care at the point-of-need, citizen-centred care, improved quality and cost containment. Such applications were on show at the EU High Level eHealth Conferences in Brussels, Belgium, in 2003, and in Cork, Ireland, in 2004. eHealth is now on the governmental agenda of EU Member States to be implemented on a broader scale. In line with this development, the Commission has taken a number of policy initiatives. A European Union Action Plan for a European eHealth Area was published by the Commission in April 2004 and endorsed by the EU health ministers in June 2004. This means that, for the first time, Europe has a coherent agenda for the implementation of eHealth. This report will concentrate on eHealth activities initiated by the Information Society Directorate-General of the European Commission.

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