European Commission’s digital strategy for the future.

RB – 12/2019

The new Commission took office on 1 December. Vytenis Andriukaitis has been replaced by Stella Kyriakides as Health Commissioner.

Right until the end of his tenure, Andriukaitis was working hard to improve European health. On 13 November 2019, he was invited to the European Patient Forum’s (EPF) congress and spoke about the role of patients in healthcare, his term in office and the digital transformation of healthcare in the European Union. 

The role of patients

In his speech Andriukaitis addressed the five E’s of the EPF’s Patient Empowerment Campaign: education, experience, expertise, equality and engagement.


Patients these days are well informed and are capable of acquiring the knowledge required to actively influence their own health. An individual’s health literacy has a major influence on their health.

Andriukaitis stressed that the wide range of information available also has the potential to spread false information and fears, for example about vaccination.

It is crucial to provide European citizens with reliable and objective information in order to ensure confidence in the systems and methods of prevention and healthcare. Digital communication channels can help educate EU citizens.


Andriukaitis then went on to talk about the experience of healthcare and related services. Their digitalisation will play a major role in the coming years. Digital applications help to consolidate fragmented care structures and make it possible for patients to experience healthcare through digital applications.

With regard to the European Union (EU), digital healthcare for patients is becoming increasingly more tangible due to ePrescriptions. Since the beginning of the year, 4,000 ePrescriptions have been exchanged in three Member States. Several countries have now begun to exchange electronic health records. The European Commission supports the EU-wide exchange of data through its Recommendation on a European Electronic Health Record exchange format put forward in February 2019.


In terms of the principle of expertise, Andriukaitis highlighted the European Reference Networks (ERN). They are considered a good example of the success of cross-border specialised healthcare. Since 2017, 24 ERNs have been established to improve the treatment of patients with rare diseases.


On 25 June, the ERN Board of the Member States published a statement on the integration of the ERNs into the national health systems of the Member States.

The European Commission is also actively pursuing further initiatives in the field of digitalisation. According to the European Commission’s proposal, funding of innovations planned in the Horizon Europe programme is likely to be embedded in the Digital Europe Programme. With a budget of €9.2 billion, the aim of the Digital Europe Programme is to promote innovation in digital transformation and interoperability, high performance computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and trust, and advanced digital skills.