Healthcare in your pocket: unlocking the potential of mHealth

Submitted by santiago on Sat, 12/04/2014 - 19:36
Comisión Europea
Type of news
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Press Release - The European Commission is today [10/04/2014] launching a consultation on #mHealth or mobile health, asking for help in finding ways to enhance the health and wellbeing of Europeans with the use of mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, patient monitoring devices and other wireless devices. European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU), responsible for the Digital Agenda, said: "mHealth will reduce costly visits to hospitals, help citizens take charge of their own health and wellbeing, and move towards prevention rather than cure. It is also a great opportunity for the booming app economy and for entrepreneurs. I personally use a sports-band on my wrist to measure how active I am from day to day, so I am a great supporter of mHealth already. Please send us your input into this consultation to help us become global leaders in this fascinating area". European Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg (@borgton) said: "mHealth has a great potential to empower citizens to manage their own health and stay healthy longer, to trigger greater quality of care and comfort for patients, and to assist health professionals in their work. As such, exploring mHealth solutions can contribute to modern, efficient and sustainable health systems". How can mHealth help? Using mHealth is a triple win! mHealth services:

  • put the patient in control, giving greater independence, and helping to prevent health problems
  • make a more efficient healthcare system, with vast potential for cost-savings
  • create huge opportunities for innovative services, start-ups and the app economy.

Some examples of mHealth

  • an app that measures your vital signals such as blood pressure
  • an app to help administer insulin to a diabetic, by transmitting control signals to the pump from a mobile platform
  • an app to remind patients they should take their medication
  • an app providing fitness or dietary recommendations to improve users' overall health and wellbeing
Graphic of mHealth

The good news There are nearly 100,000 mHealth #apps already available across multiple platforms such as iTunes, Google play, Windows Marketplace, BlackBerry World. The top 20 free sports, fitness and health apps already account for 231 million downloads worldwide. By 2017, 3.4 billion people worldwide will own a smartphone and half of them will be using mHealth apps. In 2017, if its potential is fully unlocked, mHealth could save €99 billion in healthcare costs in the EU. And with the Connected Continent package receiving a positive vote in the European Parliament last week, we are one step closer to safeguarding innovative services in the EU. What needs to be addressed? We still need to address issues like the safety of mHealth apps, concerns over the use of their data, the lack of interoperability among available solutions and the lack of stakeholder knowledge of the legal requirements applicable to lifestyle and wellbeing apps, such as compliance with data protection rules and whether these apps are medical devices and need to obtain CE marking. It is also important that we build trust among health professionals and citizens, and we help people use mHealth services effectively. What questions does the consultation pose? Consumer and patients' organisations, health professionals and health organisations, public authorities, app developers, telecommunications service providers, mobile device manufacturers, individuals and all interested parties are invited to respond to the consultation, by 3 July 2014. Examples of the questions being asked are:

  • What safety and performance requirements should apply to lifestyle and wellbeing apps?
  • Which security safeguards could ensure health data is safe in an mHealth context?
  • What is the best way to promote mHealth entrepreneurship in Europe?

The EU is also funding research on mHealth. For instance, patients with kidney failure will soon be able to monitor their dialysis on their smartphone, apps already exist to manage stress, and medical staff in Graz, Austria, has greatly improved internal workflow with a new mobile system. Find out more in Background mHealth is an emerging part of #eHealth @EU_eHealth, where Information & Communication Technologies are used to improve health products, services and processes. It is a promising area to supplement the traditional delivery of healthcare, and complements rather than replaces it. Published in 2012, the Commission's eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020 recognised the current and potential benefits of mobile health apps, as well as potential associated risks, and announced this Green Paper on mHealth. This Green Paper is accompanied by a Staff Working Document to raise stakeholders awareness of EU rules on data protection, medical devices (helping them determine whether such legislation applies to their apps or not) and consumer directives. Respond by 3 July 2014 in Public consultation on the Green Paper on mobile Health, by CNECT-GREEN-PAPER-mHealth [at] (e-mail), or by post to: European Commission, DG Communications Networks, Content & Technology Unit H1, Health & Well-being Avenue de Beaulieu/Beaulieulaan 31, Brussels 1049 - Belgium. The Commission will publish the summary of responses in the fourth quarter of 2014; possible policy actions are expected in 2015.

Contacts: Email: comm-kroes [at] Tel: +32 22957361 Twitter: @RyanHeathEU