The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/05/26esante/
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Health Ministers press ahead with e-Health dossier
European Ministers for Health and the European Commission want to place the new information and communication techniques, with their enormous potential, at the service of the health of European citizens. The European action plan, national action plans and the European and national Internet portals will contribute to the accelerated breakthrough of e-Health in the domain of health care.
Within the framework of the third European Conference on e-Health, which took place at Tromsø in the north of Norway, organised jointly by the Norwegian government, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Commission, together with the European ministers for health have taken the decision to set up an integrated E-Health system, interoperable and compatible across the different countries.
Through this initiative, Norway, a non-member of the EU, but an associate through AELE, has shown how close it is to its European partners.
The 2005 Conference, attended by the European Ministers and about 500 health and IT experts, was opened by the Norwegian Minister for Health, Ansgar Gabrielsen, the Luxembourg Minister for Health and Social Security, Mars Di Bartolomeo, and the European Commissioner for Health, Markos Kyprianou. At the same time, there was an exhibition of pilot projects in the Member States. On the eve of the Conference, the ministers for health had the opportunity to participate in an exchange of views during an excursion to Spitsbergen (Svalbard).
E-Health at the service of health
In his opening speech, the Minister for Health, Mars Di Bartolomeo, highlighted the importance of the open method of coordination in advancing European health policy. The main challenges facing public health, such as HIV/AIDS, epidemics, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and drug abuse, have no limits. The new technological resources available in the information society era have almost unlimited potential and must be harnessed for public health.
All the European partners are currently working towards defining, each in their own way, a national system for the computerised exchange of health data and information. The Commission also presented its new e-health action plan. In this context, Minister Mars Di Bartolomeo thought that it was vital for the European partners to intensify their coordination work, designate national contacts, identify and exchange "best practices" and find joint responses to shared problems, such as data protection and respect for privacy, through joint action.
To improve healthcare cover and effectiveness, both within national systems and in cross-border terms, to ensure the sustainability of health system funding and to avoid and combat the secondary effects and incidents involved in financial responsibility, it is important to define joint objectives.
Undeniable added value for patients and for health systems
Mars Di Bartolomeo invited his colleagues to reinforce their commitment to e-Health and to ensure the availability of the necessary resources so that pilot projects could be set up in all the Member States, in collaboration with the European Commission: "E-Health cannot be introduced at zero cost", the Luxembourg Minister concluded. Nobody, however, can deny its added value, both for patients and for the efficiency of health and funding systems.
Improved coordination and, where necessary, a reduction in the number of existing working groups is an absolute condition for ensuring the rapid success of e-Health.
Ministers determined to assume leadership
At the close of the conference, the Ministers made a joint statement in which they agreed to achieve coherent and interoperable health systems. All citizens, even those living in remote regions, must receive the best healthcare services possible. Ambitious projects, such as the introduction of electronic patient files accessible through secure authentication systems using an electronic health card, the use of the Internet as a support tool for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, information for doctors and health professionals on the latest news in the medical world and the most appropriate care, are all joint objectives to be achieved.
The Ministers intend to evaluate the progress made in the field of on-line health and consider that e-health is an important pillar in the joint European health strategy. "Secure, reliable, accessible and effective", are the pivotal aspects of the joint project.
A follow-up conference at ministerial level has been planned for mid-May 2006 in Malaga (Spain).