E-Health Europe: How does the new Lead Market Initiative (LMI) on e-health differ from the initiatives previously undertaken by the Commission in this area?

Information Society and Media Directorate-General ICT for Health: “The European Commission has been mainly supporting research and innovation in e-health for the last 20 years. In 2004, it has officially unveiled its support to deployment and policy activities with the e-health action plan. The LMI is a continuation of the e-health action plan and the first initiative to focus on specific policy activities targeting sustainability, growth and transparency of the e-health market.”

EHE: What will be the key milestones by which success of the strategy will be measured?

ICT4H: “The overall Lead Market Initiative calls for urgent and coordinated action in six different market areas – e-health, protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energies – with a timeline of three to five years. The six identified markets cover domains of high economic and societal interest and are expected to grow to €300bn per year in 2020 (in Europe only), from their current estimated €120bn value.

“In the area of e-health we forecast an increase of 43% by 2020, bringing the total volume of the market to €30bn from the current estimate of €21bn in 2006 within the EU. If this materialises, there would be an estimated 360,000 more jobs in Europe in this sector.

“As well as market growth, another key indicator for success will be a scoreboard of member state procurement of innovative ICT solutions in healthcare.

“Ultimately, what matters is that through e-health people will receive better quality care, will have access to care and health information when and where needed and health delivery systems will be more efficient.”

EHE: What period does the strategy cover?

ICT4H: “Action plans focus on a time period of three to five years.”

EHE: What funding does the Commission plan to back the strategy with over its lifetime?

ICT4H: “The Commission has already invested in projects worth over €1bn over the past 20 years through its research framework programmes, for example in the areas of electronic health records, regional health information networks, personal health systems and other tools for patients, as well as ICT tools for professionals including those that support the improvement of patient safety.

“Regarding the LMI, there will be opportunities to fund networking activities of stakeholders (policy makers, finance, standards, clusters and industry) in the themes of the emerging markets, building on ongoing Europe INNOVA activities. Also very targeted events and projects/studies will be called for on business models, on securing and protecting investment and financing of e-health deployment, support to innovation friendly procurements etc. Engaging all relevant services of the Commission will be an important aspect of this initiative.”

EHE: How would you characterise the state of the current European e-health market?

ICT4H: “The health sector as a whole currently involves 9.3% of the EU workforce, more than 15m people. Health expenditure represents more than 8.5% of GDP, growing 4% a year (faster than EU economic growth), and can reach 16% of GDP by 2020 (Healthcast 2020 PricewaterhouseCoopers).

“The e-health industry in the EU was estimated to be worth close to €21bn in 2006. Market players and observers agree that e-health in Europe is set for explosive growth, driven by the need to face the health-related challenges and to take advantage of burgeoning new medical information and communication technologies.

“By 2010, a double digit growth rate of up to 11% is foreseen as driven by a search for more productivity and performance. The prospects are even rosier for the specific sector of telemedicine services in which annual growth of 19% is foreseen.”

EHE: Who is the strategy aimed at?

ICT4H: “All e-health stakeholders – namely authorities on national and regional levels and other government bodies; users – health professional organisations and patient groups; and of course industry and their associations”

EHE: What are the three most important issues that the Commission can address to accelerate the development of the European e-health market?

ICT4H: “First is the continuous support for research, development and innovation. Second, to reduce market fragmentation through addressing interoperability of systems and the relevant legal framework with the ultimate goal being better quality applications and better care. Third is to support the development of win-win scenarios for all the stakeholders to ensure sustainable deployment of e-health systems. The focus will be on development of new business models that include clear incentives to users, economic benefits, and legal certainty. Particular emphasis will be given to facilitate procurement of innovative e-health solutions.”

EHE: How have European member states been involved in shaping the new strategy?

ICT4H: “The i2010 sub-group on e-health, composed of Representatives from ministries of 32 European states has been involved throughout the process. Many services of the Commission have discussed the initiative in length. Also, user organisations and industry has been consulted and have provided their input.”

EHE: How has industry been involved in shaping the new strategy?

ICT4H: “An e-health industry stakeholders’ group reporting to the i2010 sub-group on e-health validated elements of the action plan. Members of the eHISG include: the Continua Health Alliance (a consortium of 100 companies); COCIR (the European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare-IT Industry, a consortium of 30 enterprises and national industry associations); IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise); EHTEL (European Health Telematics Association) and EUROREC (European Institute for Electronic Health Records).”