Technological change as the key to transform Europe. Part of the European Digital Single Market Strategy is the digitalisation of health and long-term care services and the modernisation of public services.

MS – 05/2017

The European Commission’s mid-term review of the Digital Single Market Strategy, published in May 2017, has once again put the focus on the need to complete the Digital Single Market. In addition to the European Data Economy, challenges for cyber security and online platforms, the Commission’s other priorities are the digitalisation of health and long-term care services and the modernisation of public services.  

Digitalisation of health and long-term care services

The European Commission believes that the digitalisation of public health services has the potential to make healthcare more effective and cost-efficient. This can drive forward models which support the transition from hospital-based to patient-focused healthcare, such as home monitoring. 


In the coming weeks, the Commission will be looking more intensely at the need and scope for further measures in digital healthcare and long-term care, the rights of patients, and electronic identification. They will present their thoughts as part of a communication which will be released at the end of 2017. The aim is to further encourage the Member States to provide patients with secure access to electronic patient records and to enable the use of electronic prescriptions across borders. There is already an interoperable eHealth infrastructure being put in place which will allow the European Commission to help the Member States to electronically exchange medical information (for more, see article Digital Health: eHealth Week 2017). 


In addition, data infrastructures are to be established in order to tap into the potential of big data in the field of health. Advanced data analyses are particularly relevant to personalised medicine and the early detection of new infectious diseases. The European Reference Networks (ERN) also demonstrate the importance of networking specialised healthcare providers with data on rare diseases (for more on ERN, see article from Dec 2016). 

Modernisation of public services

The aim of the EU’s eGovernment Action Plan is to encourage Member States to push the digitalisation of public administration. Citizens should have easy, reliable and seamless access to public services. The principles of ‘once-only’ and ‘digital-by-default’ should be applied to achieve this. E-procurement procedures should also play a leading role.  

Establishing a European Data Economy

Behind the idea of harnessing the full potential of a European Data Economy is the establishment of the free flow of data within the EU. Here, the European Commission distinguishes between personal data, such as health data, and non-personal data.  


Harmonised regulations apply in the EU for personal data, for example through the General Data Protection Regulation. Under this regulation, the European Commission has left the Member States room for specification clauses in health data when implementing the new regulation. For example, Member States can impose additional conditions for the use of genetic and biometric health data. However, the European Commission has announced it will check whether the free flow of personal data within the Union is not unreasonably restricted.  


In terms of the Data Economy, the European Commission is currently preparing a legislative proposal on the “cross-border free flow of non-personal data” which will published in autumn this year. Furthermore, an initiative on the accessibility and reuse of public and publicly-funded data has been announced for spring 2018.  

Other priorities

With regard to cybersecurity, the European Commission will complete a review by September 2017 of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) in order to adapt these to the new EU-wide framework for cybersecurity. By the end of 2017, the Commission will finalise an initiative on online platforms which addresses unfair contractual clauses and trading practices which have recently been identified in platform-to-business relationships.  

Europeans believe in the positive effect of digital technology

The Commission has also published a Eurobarometer on the impact of digitalisation on the daily lives of citizens. According to the report, two-thirds of Europeans believe that using the latest digital technologies has a positive effect on society, the economy and their own quality of life. However, the majority of respondents also expect the EU, the Member States and companies to take appropriate measures to deal with the obvious problems associated with digitalisation (e.g. negative impact on job security) 

What next?

The Commission has assigned the European Council a key role in the implementation of the strategies they have envisaged. The Heads of State and Government are expected to ensure the necessary momentum for the timely adoption and implementation of the proposals.  


The Commission’s mid-term review of the Digital Single Market Strategy can be viewed here.  


An overview of the Commission’s proposals can be downloaded here.  


The Eurobarometer is available here