The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted on 19 September a positive opinion on the Commission’s Communication entitled 'Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market, empowering citizens and building a healthier society'.
In its opinion, the EESC agrees with the vision outlined in the Commission’s communication, namely to promote health, prevent and fight diseases, help respond to unmet patient needs and provide citizens with equal access to high-quality care through appropriate use of digital innovations and social economy.
The key elements extracted from the opinion are presented below.
As the advisory body representing Europe’s socio-occupational interest groups (e.g. employers, workers), the EESC focuses on the impact of digital transformation on (healthcare) professionals and citizens.
Digitalisation processes must help healthcare professionals to spend more time with patients.
Appropriate training and further education programmes are necessary, working conditions and the quality of jobs must be improved and staff data protection must be enhanced.
E-health - Under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, an online healthcare network (eHealth network) must be set up to advance the interoperability of eHealth solutions.
Health Technology Assessment (HTA) – Interestingly, the EESC refers to the Commission’s regulatory proposal on HTA as “the four-pillar process for cross-border joint work on digital transformation in health and care”.
The EESC suggests
Taking appropriate action to investigate new ethical, legal and social frameworks that consider the risks associated with data mining.
Promoting research and innovation on the integration of digital technologies in order to renew healthcare processes, e.g. artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and interoperability.
Creating a connected IT infrastructure to allow patients with rare diseases to be contacted quickly and to make their health and medical data available for global not-for-profit research.
The EESC is one of the advisory bodies of the EU, representing workers, employers and other interest groups. It issues opinions to the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. Although the EESC’s opinions are not legally binding, they are taken into account in the decision-making process.
Citizens’ secure access to and sharing of health data across borders;
Better data to advance research, disease prevention and personalised health and care;
Digital tools for citizen empowerment and person-centred care.
The Commission is currently developing a European electronic health record exchange format accessible to all Europeans which is expected by the end of this year.