For many years building information society has been one of the strategic approaches in the development of the European Union and Member States. The first important steps associated with the essence of health care development in this respect were taken by the European Commission by adopting the Lisbon Strategy in 2000. This programme of social and economic reforms in Member States assumed increased dynamics of the economic development of Europe, so that it could compete with the economy of the United States and other highly developed world economies, within a decade. In order to achieve this goal the European Union chose to develop knowledge-based economy, where one of the priorities is the access to modern IT technologies, including the provision of general access to services offered by public institutions on-line. The issue of public health was defined in the Lisbon Strategy as one of the conditions that needed to be met in order to achieve its provisions, as it had significant influence on economic efficiency and well-being. The particular significance of public health for the development of economy was emphasised by the European Community in 2002, by establishing the programme for community actions in the field of public health for the years 2003–2008. Subsequently, the EU adopted a programme of community actions in the same field for the years 2008-2013, the currently valid programme is the third multiannual programme of EU activities in the field of public health for the years 2014–2020. One of the main goals of the programmes is to improve the health of the citizens, by providing them with access to better and safer healthcare, and to develop the e-Health system.
According to the European Union, the application of IT solutions would provide significant support in the increase of efficiency and effectiveness in health systems. A detailed plan of activities with regard to the development of e-Health is determined in the communication of the European Commission of 30 April 2004: „e-Health – making healthcare better for European citizens: An action plan for a European e-Health Area”. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions” and the subsequent „eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020: Innovative healthcare for the 21st century”. These documents obligate all Member States to promote and develop e-Health and ensure better access to health services e.g. by means of e-solutions, such as e-Prescription or e-Referral.
On 3 March 2010 the European Commission published communication entitled „Europe 2020 – Strategy for smart and sustainable development for inclusive growth”, which included measures that were to replace the Lisbon Strategy adopted in 2000. Its priorities include exiting the crisis and preparing European economy for the next decade. The first of seven key projects described in Europe 2020 is the Digital Agenda for Europe, adopted on 19 May 2010. One of the most important approaches contained in the Agenda consists in the popularisation and development of modern on-line services, including access to medical data and services.
Apart from national projects there are also many European schemes implemented by European consortia. All of them are intended to support the building of information society in Member States. From the point of view of the informatisation of healthcare, those worth mentioning are:
The participants of the project are various institutions related to the healthcare sector from 25 European countries and three countries from outside the European Union. epSOS is the main European project with regard to the exchange of transborder information in healthcare.
The aim of the project is to develop mechanisms that will permit exchange of medical data on patients between European countries. It will result in the improvement in health care quality and safety of citizens travelling within Europe. Thanks to the development of IT infrastructure it will be possible to safely access information on the patient within European health care systems. IT solutions will ensure safe access to information on patients’ health, particularly to the history of the disease and electronic prescriptions shared among healthcare systems of particular Member States. Currently the project is in the pilot stage – a technical solution has been initiated that will allow testing cross-border exchange of medical data under real conditions.
The project is a response to the needs stated by the European Union Member States, e.g. in the declaration signed during the Conference in Barcelona. It is a policy initiative supported by two independent tools: The Joint Action – eHealth Governance Initiative and the Thematic Network SEHGovIA – Support for the European Government Initiative and Actions. The scope of the EU eHealth Governance Initiative includes: legal matters, semantics and terminology, identification, authentication and standardisation in the field of e-Health.
This five-year project is currently implemented by a consortium of European institutions and top EU universities under the direction of King’s College London. The aim of the project is to create a dispersed platform integrating clinical and research systems that would allow the use of a Decision Support System based on anonymous data collected from medical records. The project is to improve patients’ safety in European countries and reduce diagnostic or therapeutic errors by using medical data gathered in the EHR.
European ANTILOPE project, whose primary goal is to support the development and implementation of standards in the area of e-Health. In addition, the initiative is to popularise the existing standards and specify those developed within the activities designed to demonstrate interoperability of standards applied in European e-health solutions.
The overall objective of PARENT Joint Action is to support the EU Member States in developing comparable and interoperable patient registries in clinical fields of identified importance (e.g. chronic diseases, medical technology). Its aim is to rationalize the development and governance of interoperable patient registries, thus enabling the use of secondary data for public health and research purposes in cross-organizational and cross-border setting.
Methodological guidelines for efficient and rational governance of interoperable patient registries and additional implementation tools and services are developed.
Project website: http://patientregistries.eu/