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Europe’s digital highway changing the future of health care

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The European Commission continues to strategically progress digital changes to modernise its healthcare system, with significant funding announced in their June EU Budget. 

The budget announcement proposes to create the first ever Digital Europe program and invest €9.2 billion to align the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027 with tackling increasing digital challenges.

Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said the announcement would ensure the EU budget was fit for the future.

“Digital transformation is taken into account across all proposals, from transport, energy and agriculture to health care and culture. We are proposing more investment in artificial intelligence, supercomputing, cybersecurity, skills and eGovernment – all identified by EU leaders as the key areas for the future competitiveness of the EU,” Mr Ansip said.

The European Commission’s legislative framework is based on new technologies enabling cross-border access of data to create more personalised, accurate and patient-oriented health care in a safe environment.

The framework is designed to overcome three challenges; ageing population and chronic diseases putting pressure on health budgets; unequal healthcare quality; and shortage of health professionals.

Currently EU citizens have the right to access health care in any EU country and to be reimbursed for care abroad by their home country.

The Commission’s digital health goal is to reduce administrative costs, avoid human errors, optimise the use of medical data and increase quality of services by systematically aligning healthcare IT systems and implement systems that support open standards-based data exchange.

The Commission recently established a set of measures to increase the availability of data in the EU, building on previous initiatives to boost the free flow of non-personal data in the Digital Single Market.

Thirteen European countries signed a declaration in April for delivering cross-border access to their genomic information. This is a game changer for European health research and clinical practice: sharing more genomic data will improve understanding and prevention of disease, allowing for more personalised treatments (and targeted drug prescription), in particular for rare diseases, cancer and brain related diseases. The target of the EU is to make one million genomes accessible in the EU by 2022.

The European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Ms Mariya Gabriel, said the agreement was founded in the understanding modern health relies on digital innovation and cross-border interoperability.

“Secure access to genomic and other health data among Member States is essential for better health and care delivery to European citizens and to ensure that the EU will remain at the forefront of health research.”

MEREDITH HORNE

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