On 26 April, the EC published a Communication on "enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market; empowering citizens and building a healthier society”, including a set of measures to increase the availability of data in the EU.
The vision outlined in the Communication is to promote health, prevent and control disease, help address patients' unmet needs and make it easier for citizens to have equal access to high quality care through the meaningful use of digital innovations.
Against this background, a breakfast debate followed by a workshop were organised in the European Parliament on 19 June to discuss the opportunities and implications of Big Data for the healthcare sector.
The breakfast-debate entitled "Big Data in Health – IMI's HARMONY project" and hosted by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Soledad Cabezon Ruiz (S&D, Spain) showcased the opportunities big data brings when it comes to improving patient outcomes, through the example of the Innovation Medicines Initiative’s (IMI) HARMONY(Healthcare Alliance for Resourceful Medicine Offensive against Neoplasms in Hematology) project, which aims to improve the care of patients with haematologic cancer.
HARMONY’s objectives are to gather, integrate and analyse anonymous patient data from a number of high quality sources, to help the partners define clinical endpoints and outcomes for 7 diseases: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Multiple Myeloma (MM), Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) and Paediatric Hematologic Malignancies (Child HM).
Health Working Group meeting
Following the breakfast debate, the Health Working-Group of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) organised a workshop on "Digitalisation and Big Data: Implications for the Health sectors". The workshop was co-chaired by MEP Soledad Cabezon Ruiz (S&D, Spain) and MEP Alojz Peterle (EPP, Slovenia), who also co-chair the ENVI Health Working Group.
All speakers advocated for the use of big data and digitisation as a way to improve patient outcomes through sharing data and information to come up with more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans, and allowing algorithms to source the latest medical knowledge from a variety of sources. However, despite the opportunities offered by big data, concerns were expressed with regard to data privacy and cost.