The European Commission has published an update on its lead market initiative for e-health, reporting that it is too early to tell whether work has had an impact on growing the continent’s e-health market.
Launched in January 2008 the LMI strategy was aimed at accelerating the growth of the e-health market in Europe by removing legal and regulatory barriers and promoting interoperability over the next two years.
Barriers delaying successful market growth, such as market fragmentation, lack of
legal certainty, lack of financial support and procurement issues, which collectively affect the development of demand for eHealth products and services.
Assessing progress so far the report concludes: “Most of the foreseen activities have been initiated and deadlines have been respected, with no particular need to change or adapt the action plan.”
The report adds: “It is still too early to notice any market growth as a result of the LMI activities.”
The mid-term report lists the main initiatives that have been launched to achieve these aims. They include the adoption of a recommendation on cross-border interoperability of electronic health record (EHR) systems.
The most ambitious practical project has been the development and launch of epSOS3 (Smart Open Services for European Patients) pilot, that the Commission says has led to cross border cooperation between Member States and acceleration of uptake of EU-wide eHealth solutions.
Proposals are also being drawn up to develop large-scale telemedicine pilots to improve the evidence base for telehealth.
Another flagship development has been the launch of the Calliope network, which has the core goal of promoting interoperability in e-health. Another thematic network is also planned on e-health procurement issues.
Work is also continuing on standards and quality labelling and certification, with the launch of a thematic network on quality labelling and certification of electronic health record systems imminent. This will build on the Q-Rec project carried out by Eurorec.
Further work has also been commissioned, after delays, on eHealth benchmarking and it is expected that the study will be launched in 2010.
The EC has also funded the ‘Good eHealth’ study, a database of case studies of successful e-health implementation, and the www.epractice.eu is a further way of sharing case studies.
The e-health LMI paper said the EU e-health industry was estimated to be worth €21bn in 2006 and has the potential to be the third largest industry in the healthcare sector, with rapid double-digit growth anticipated by the end of the decade.
E-health was one of six markets identified as key to the future growth of Europe’s economy. The other main markets are: protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energies.
In each instance the aim is to maximise the potential of each of these markets and reduce the cost of bringing new products or services into the market.
As part of the LMI for e-health, a roadmap of policy recommendations for the period 2008-2010 was developed in cooperation with an EC-wide task-force.
On the next steps the progress report states: “Overall we can conclude that the LMI has significantly helped with the creation of a favourable political environment for the efficient implementation of eHealth actions.”
It concludes: “It is hoped that the remaining two years’ activity under the LMI action plan can significantly contribute to market growth and increased employment in the field, despitethe difficult economic climate.”