Our first panel debate since the summer break featured several specialists of the digital health sector: Tiemo Wölken MEP, Ceri Thompson, Head of the Policy Sector, DG CNECT’s eHealth unit, and Josep Figueras, Director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (EOHS). They took part in a round-table discussion on eHealth, discussing how it would benefit EU countries’ health systems’, the different methods of implementation and actions taken by the EU, but also the different obstacles that they face.
The discussion first focused on the Communication on the Digital Transformation of Health and Care, published by the European Commission and providing direction to EU activities for the coming years. In addition to an overview of the global state of health in the EU, the three objectives of this Communication were identified and presented in details to our members, constituting a solid technical backdrop for the discussion that followed.
The positive impact that eHealth can have on EU member States’ Health Systems was stressed throughout the discussion between the panellists and the participants. A wider implementation of digital health across the EU would allow, amongst others, tremendous savings resulting from the use of mobile health applications. A better pooling of data at the EU level would also have huge benefits, reducing for instance the time to diagnose rare disease.
While the great potential of digital health solutions was put forward, the challenges and obstacles linked to eHealth are also substantial and were discussed between the speakers and participants. Issues include data privacy, record linkage and a lack of incentives from both doctors and governments to use digital technologies.
A senior associate of a member company shared his insight of the event with us:
“It was a very useful and interesting debate. The high level speakers provided great insights on the topic, which showed once more how eHealth can be an important factor that can engender EU Member States’ health systems.
At the same time, the panellists and the participants recognised the difficulties of privacy, data ownership, interoperability, and others, which need to be dealt with by political will and stakeholders’ involvement.Obviously a sort debate cannot give answers to all the issues, but the importance of these meetings is that the right stakeholders are in the room and can benefit from the takeaways. I look forward to more interesting event like this.”
MEP | European parliament
Tiemo Wölken is a young politician from northern Germany. Aged only 32, he is the youngest MEP from the German Social Democratic Party. He has been active in local politics since 2003 in his home region and holds a LL.M. in International Law from the University of Hull, England. Since 2016, he is a lawyer in addition to being a Member of the European Parliament. Tiemo’s areas of expertise are environmental issues, healthcare, the budget of the European Union, and all things digital - from eHealth to tackling geoblocking. In addition, he is the spokesperson of the German Social Democrats in the European Parliament on all health related issues.
Head of Sector, eHealth and Ageing Policy | European Commission
Dr Ceri Thompson is head of the policy sector in DG CNECT’s eHealth, Wellbeing and Ageing unit. Within the European Commission, Ceri has previously worked for DG SANTE and Eurostat. She has experience across a range of EU health policy areas, including nutrition & physical activity, alcohol and drugs, tobacco, pharmaceutical policy and health inequalities. Prior to joining the Commission she worked on Global Health for DFID, and for KPMG’s international healthcare practice, conducting strategic and efficiency reviews of health systems in the CARICOM and EECCA regions, and of various London hospitals. Ceri graduated with a degree in Mathematics from Durham University in 1992, and she holds an MSc and a Doctorate in Public Health both from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Director | WHO
Josep Figueras, MD, MPH, PhD (econ) is the Director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. In addition to WHO, he has served other major multilateral organizations such as the European Commission and the World Bank. He has served as policy advisor in more than forty countries within the European region and beyond. He is a member of several governing, advisory and editorial boards including member of the board of the European Health Forum Gastein. He is honorary fellow of the UK faculty of public health medicine; received the Andrija Stampar Medal for excellence in Public Health and a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Semmelweis University and has twice been awarded the EHMA prize. He is currently visiting professor at Imperial College, and external examiner at London, Maastricht and Cork Universities. He was director of the MSc in Health Services Management and lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine