A new European e-health action plan, launched by the European Commission this month, aims to boost understanding and uptake of digital solutions such as smartphone medical apps within Europe’s healthcare systems.

Welcoming the plan – ‘Innovative healthcare in the 21st century’ – COCIR, the European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT Industry, said it provided a comprehensive roadmap for smart and sustainable healthcare in Europe.

Nicole Denjoy, COCIR secretary general, said: “Our industry has devoted significant efforts over the last years to improve systems… and to supply the technologies required to make e-health a reality.

"The new plan takes the right steps in supporting the sustainability of these efforts.”

Alongside other stakeholders, COCIR is actively participating in providing e-health solutions through the European Innovation Partnership and the Active and Healthy Ageing Initiative.

COCIR points out that EU investment in research is key in encouraging interoperable patient records and for demonstrating best practice in the widespread deployment of telemedicine.

The action plan was produced in response to a public consultation in 2011, and fits into a broader-based Digital Agenda for Europe.

In addition to digitizing other sectors, this aims to increase deployment of telemedicine, patient access to their health data and interoperability. It is the first of seven flagship initiatives under Europe 2020, the EU’s strategy to deliver smart sustainable and inclusive growth.

Specifically, the new plan has fine-tuned several objectives: to increase the pace of healthcare improvements by clarifying areas of legal uncertainty; to improve interoperability between systems; to increase awareness and skills among patients and healthcare professionals; to put patients at the centre of initiatives related to personal health management and supporting research into personalised medicine; and to make sure that free legal advice is available for start-up e-health businesses.

A staff working paper that accompanies the plan provides a legal overview of how current EU legislation applies to cross border telemedicine.

In 2011, the first EU law with provisions on the interoperability of e-health, the Directive on Patients’ Rights in Cross Border Healthcare was adopted. In addition, a mobile health green paper will be produced by 2014 addressing quality and transparency issues.

Commenting on the plan, Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy at the EC said: “E-health brings healthcare closer to people and improves health systems’ efficiency. The action plan will help turn the e-health potential into better care for our citizens.”