The Committee of the Regions has called on the EU to improve cooperation and exploit the potential of new technologies to improve the quality of healthcare across Europe. A common EU strategy should be launched that significantly increases the sharing of knowledge and information across Member States and uses mobile technology (mHealth) as a way to cut costs, improve access and create socially inclusive healthcare services of the future.
In an opinion led by Karsten Uno Petersen, the Committee argues that improving the “effectiveness, accessibility and resilience” of healthcare services in the EU must start by formally recognising the role of local governments. The Regional Councillor from the South Denmark Region further argues that the EU must commit to launching a socially inclusive strategy that enables all citizens to access affordable high-quality health services, “Across Europe we face the same uphill struggle: local governments are having to deal with an ever ageing population at a time when cuts to public services are running deep. Nevertheless, healthcare is a right in Europe and we have to ensure that all citizens are able to access quality care” he said.
The Committee calls for the standardisation of health care data across the EU which would allow comparisons to be made. This would enable support to be given to those lagging behind. Significantly improving cooperation and collaboration is also crucial, “We all share the same goal of creating resilient and cost-effective health care services so we need to pool together share knowledge, work across borders and expand information on health. There is a great deal of experience and know-how in Europe, especially local and regional knowledge, which we can all profit from”.
The Committee also supports the review by the European Commission which considers the potential of mHealth – using technology to collect healthcare data, provide information and monitor patients – as a way to improve healthcare services. In its opinion presented by Martin Andreasson, Councillor of Västra Götaland, the Committee agrees that expanding the sector could bring significant savings: a report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper suggests that by 2017 as much as €99bn could be saved and a further €93bn added to the EU’s GDP. Crucially, it could improve access to services making a difference to the lives of many citizens, “mHealth can save money whilst improving the quality and access of health services for all. It can empower patients, especially elderly people and those with disabilities, to take control back over their own health improving independence in everyday life”, Andreasson said in Brussels yesterday.
Exploiting the opportunities offered by mHealth requires, the Committee argues, a broad EU strategy that ensures the technology is freely available and collaboration improved not only among Member States, but across borders and between local authorities. It must include a set of common standards that fully protects citizens’ privacy. Mr. Andreasson added, “An EU-wide strategy for mHealth will boost innovation, job creation and the quality of public health care services. The technology, however, must reach all citizens. Protecting personal data is also crucial to ensure public confidence in mHealth is not compromised”.