European Commission launches new e-health stimuli

The European Commission has published a new strategy 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.

The new paper, “Accelerating the Development of the eHealth Market in Europe,” forms part of the commission’s new “Lead Market Initiative” (LMI) in e-health, designed to create a thriving pan-European e-health market.

E-health is the first of six LMIs being carried out by the commission, with similar initiatives to follow in protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energies. The aim is to maximize the potential of each of the markets and reduce the cost of bringing new products or services into the market.

The e-health LMI paper said the e-health industry in the EU was estimated to be worth $31 billion U.S. (€21 billion) in 2006 and has the potential to be the third largest industry in the healthcare sector.

“However, this potential growth might not occur if the existing barriers to the market are not removed,” warned the paper. It said the barriers remain market fragmentation and lack of interoperability, legal uncertainties, lack of financial support and procurement problems.

The paper divided the e-health market into four main categories of applications and services: clinical information systems; telemedicine and homecare; integrated regional and national health information networks and distributed EHRs; and secondary usage non-clinical systems.

The e-health paper set out a roadmap of policy recommendations for industry representatives, European Commission working groups, member states and other e-health stakeholders. It recommended focus on removing regulatory, legal and technical barriers hindering the creation of a thriving European e-health market, setting out policy recommendations over the next two years to 2010.