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Brussels, 23 May 2003

Commission welcomes the strong reaffirmation of support for eHealth by 33 Health and Telecommunications Ministers

Costas Stefanis, Greek Minister for Health, issued a ministerial declaration on behalf of the Presidency, and agreed by the 33 EU, EEA and Acceding Countries Ministers attending a high-level conference on eHealth in Brussels. Having seen for themselves the best eHealth practices already implemented in Europe and the benefits these have brought in terms of cost savings, improved quality and access to care, Ministers expressed their renewed commitment to developing national and regional eHealth implementation plans, and to exploring the possibilities for co-ordinating these at European level. The declaration followed a ministerial meeting that took place within the conference, in the presence of Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society and David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

In acknowledging the value of sharing individual countries' experiences on the utilisation, efficiency and impact of eHealth applications, the Ministers agreed to encourage appropriate legislative, executive and administrative measures to be taken back home, to promote the adoption and use of eHealth applications.

The Ministers also underlined the need to make a continued commitment to the implementation of eHealth applications. The value of such technology lies in its capacity to support the re-organisation of healthcare provision, and the realisation of more personalised, people-centred healthcare services. The Ministers reached agreement on a number of specific measures to improve accessibility and the interchange of appropriate health information, and to support the development of standards assuring the interoperability of the many diverse systems and services in use. They reiterated their commitment to developing an information system for the early warning, detection and surveillance of health threats.

The provision of high quality health information on the Internet provides the basis for a more citizen-centred approach to healthcare delivery. The Ministers welcomed the Commission Communication on Quality Criteria for health-related Websites and encouraged the Commission to explore the possibilities of EU level Quality Seals.

The Ministers stated that in the longer term, full exploitation of eHealth goes beyond local information systems and Internet based provision of information to integrated or linked eHealth systems, that simultaneously serve the needs of citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, health service providers as well as policy makers.

This first eHealth 2003 Conference was an initiative of the European Commission, planned in close collaboration with the Greek Presidency. The Ministers present welcomed an initiative of the Irish Government to further review developments at a second eHealth conference to be organised in 2004.

Winners of first-ever eEurope awards for eHealth announced in presence of 33 ministers can be found in IP/03/736.

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