On Monday 1 October EUREGHA Vice-chair Toni Dedeu participated as a discussant in the 20th NAT Commission meeting at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). On this occasion, NAT Commission members discussed the topic of digital health together with Fernando LÓPEZ MIRAS (EPP/ES), rapporteur of the  CoR opinion on the European Commission Communication on the Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market

The Communication aims to promote health, prevent and control diseases, help address the patients’ unfulfilled needs and make it easier for citizens to have equal access to high quality care through the meaningful use of digital innovations.

During the NAT Commission meeting, EUREGHA provided inputs to the rapporteur of the CoR opinion and showcased EUREGHA member regions’ good practices in the field of eHealth.

Main points raised by the rapporteur:

New challenges are rising in Europe, such as ageing population, more chronic diseases and multimorbidity. This calls for the development and implementation of new care models: patient-centred, integrated, accessible, deinstitutionalised, and effective health care.

A more efficient use of economic and health resources is needed to ensure sustainable health systems and digital transformation is key to:

  • Securing access of citizens to their health data through the use of a European Electronic Health Record and further improving cross-border health care. Especially in the case of cross-border care, specific measures must be taken to remove obstacles to interoperability;
  • Creating better databases to promote prevention, research, and personalised medicine;
  • Developing digital tools for the empowerment of patients and person-centred care.

The rapporteur also supports the European Commission  Genomic Cooperation initiative and the  European Reference Networks (ERNs). He added that options for a single identification of genomic data, e.g. through blockchain, could be further explored through the ERNs. The CoR opinion will also highlight the importance of improving citizens’ digital literacy and enhancing training opportunities for health professionals.

Finally, the European Committee of the Regions calls on the European Commission to take into account not only the views of the Member States, but also local and regional authorities’ opinions and experiences, as they play a key role in the provision of health care services and in the scaling up of best practices. In order to fully achieve the digital transformation of the health care field, more source of financing for pilot studies in the digital field should also be provided, as Member States and EU regions must work together and in partnership with the EU institutions.

After the rapporteur’s remarks, Mr Dedeu, EUREGHA Vice-Chair, took the floor and provided inputs to the NAT Commission members by mentioning a number of regional best practices in the field of eHealth:

  • Emilia-Romagna Region (IT) – The Emilia Romagna ehealth infrastructure is based on a eHealth network (SOLE), the Regional Health Record (HER) and the Personal Health Record (PHR). The aim is to create an integrated network of local health trusts, hospitals, general practitioners and paediatricians and to provide, through the Electronic Health Record (EHR), the clinical history of every citizen in the region. The region is also partner of the ACTIVAGE project;
  • Flanders (BE) – Within the Benelux context (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) expertise and know-how have been exchanged and agreements were made to practically and legally share data across borders. Moreover, to facilitate citizens’ easy mobile access to their health data, the Flanders Agency for Care and Health is currently supporting the setup of a mobile accessible website for each citizen to consult – MyHealthViewer. Finally, in order to stimulate care givers to share data, Vitalink, the digital platform of the Flemish authority, allows the sharing of care and well-being data in a safe way;
  • Catalonia (ES) – PADRIS, the Health Analytics Programme for Research and Innovation of Catalonia. Thanks to this programme, the scientific community can reuse and cross-reference the data generated by the integrated health system of Catalonia, which gives a significant boost to research, innovation and evaluation in health;
  • Scotland (UK) Implementation of Technology Enabled Care (TEC programme). The programme was set up with the aim of accelerating the implementation of digital interventions which had a sufficient evidence base, particularly in home and community settings;
  • Tuscany (IT) – The “Electronic Health Card” (EHC) project aims to assist and facilitate connections between citizens, the Regional Health Service and the Public Administration. The main outcome of the project was the creation of the PERSONAL HEALTH RECORD (PHR), a digital collection of health data, information and clinical documents of patients provided by health services with the consent of patients  and accessible to patients and health professionals;
  • Buskerud (NO) – The Digital Night Surveillance Project, IoT-based monitoring technology was developed and successfully implemented in public healthcare services. Benefits were realized for the patients, the relatives and the partners in the network and the novel IoT technology disrupted established workflows in the care services.

Mr Dedeu emphasised the importance of embedding digital health in the planning of regional strategies. He also underlined that it is more appropriate to talk about person-centred care rather than patient-centred care, as using the word “person” also includes promotion and prevention activities, which are key to creating effective, accessible and resilient health systems and healthy societies. Finally, he highlighted that the digital transformation shall empower citizens to manage their own care and interact more easily with health providers.