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Telemedicine systems and services

Telemedicine systems and services should benefit patients and health professionals in all Member States of the European Union (EU). The Commission and Member States are working together to adapt the existing legislative and regulatory frameworks and to overcome the technical constraints on the development of these systems.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 4 November 2008 on telemedicine for the benefit of patients, healthcare systems and society [COM(2008) 689 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Telemedicine systems make it possible to transmit medical information at a distance by means of Information and Communication Technologies(ICTs). They are intended for exchanges between health professionals or between health professionals and their patients.

They are used for the diagnosis,treatmentandfollow-up of patients. As a result, these systems help to improve the quality and effectiveness of care. They are currently used in medical monitoring and radiology for the electronic transmission of information or images.

Telemedicine is of major importance in the context of an ageing European population. In particular, its use makes it possible to optimise the resources available to health centres and to increase exchanges of information between professionals. It is also an economic sector with great potential for development.

The Commission proposes a series of strategic actions at European and national levels in order to extend the application of telemedicine.

The Commission is to adopt guidelines intended to demonstrate the benefits, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of telemedicine services to users, systems and health authorities. These guidelines should be based on scientific studies and the results of pilot projects, particularly in the context of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

The Commission encourages Member States to work together to identify their needs and priorities in the area of telemedicine. Their national strategies are to be presented at the 2010 Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health.

The Commission is to develop a clear legal framework for medical acts carried out by means of telemedicine systems. By 2011, Member States should adapt their regulatory frameworks applicable to licensing, professional liability, jurisdiction and the administrative practices relating to reimbursements. Privacy and patient safety must be guaranteed.

The Commission is to establish a European platform of support to facilitate exchanges of information between Member States. It is also to publish an analysis of the Community legal framework applicable to these services.

All European patients should benefit from telemedicine services through the development of broadband connections. In addition, it is necessary to improve interoperability and network standardisation for the development of the cross-border provision of healthcare services in the single market.

In 2011 the Commission is to present a strategy paper on the interoperability, quality and security of telemonitoring systems.

Background

This Communication follows consultation held in 2007 and 2008 with health professionals, patients and representatives of undertakings in the sector. It is part of the European e-Health Action Plan aimed at improving the quality of health care through the use of new technologies.

Last updated: 12.12.2008
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