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EC encourages e-health innovation

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The European Commission’s Information, Society and Media team has issued a new guidance document encouraging innovation-friendly procurement in e-health. The guidance says that the European e-health market “suffers from the fragmentation of public demand which in turn leads to a lack of exchangeability of products and services”. It adds: “There are also barriers for the development of markets of sufficient scale to enable the quick uptake of innovations for the benefits of citizens and businesses.” As part of its drive to make e-health a lead market initiative, the EC is now calling on member states to look at current innovations when considering procurements. “Actions are needed to improve and coordinate procurement practices with regard to innovation so that industry does not provide only customer-individualised solutions resulting in technological delay and lack of economy of scale,” the guidance says. Currently, this is restricted by “limited cooperation between procurers and suppliers to develop across different member states are major barriers for the deployment of interoperable health solutions across the Union.” However, the Commission is calling on member states to take risks and deploy newly innovated systems, such as those being funded under the Innovation Framework Programme and seventh Framework programme. “This would improve the chances of having procurement of services that are already commercially available and procurement of R&D services providing solutions that outperform those available on the market,” it says. An EC spokesperson said in a statement: “By acting as technologically demanding first buyers of new R&D, public procurers can drive innovation from the demand side. This enables European public authorities to innovate the provision of public services faster and creates opportunities for companies in Europe to take international leadership in new markets. “Reducing time to market by developing a strong European home market for innovative products and services is key for Europe to create growth and jobs in quickly evolving markets such as ICT.” The report also acknowledges that some work of this nature has been done already. The Danish Health Ministry, for instance, has recently established a network in cooperation with NHS England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Swedish and German Healthcare authorities. This will aim to set up benchmarking of prices and general networking amongst its members to enable more efficient procurement. The Association of European Regions has also launched a new e-health network, bringing together both regions that are active in this area and regions that want to develop e-health policies, as well as experts, companies and organisations working on e-health.

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