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New plans for accessing health data across EU borders

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New plans for accessing health data across EU borders

Mariya Gabriel - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The Commission presented a set of recommendations Wednesday for the creation of a secure system that will enable citizens to access their electronic health files across EU Member States.

Currently the ability of European citizens to access their electronic medical records across the EU greatly varies from one country to another. Although some citizens can access part of their electronic health records at national level or across borders, many others have limited digital access or no access at all. For this reason the Commission is making recommendations that will facilitate access across borders that is secure and in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

The initiative will "help patients get their treatment wherever they are in the EU, including in emergency situations," said Commissioner for the Digital Economy Mariya Gabriel: "The proposed EU framework for an electronic health record exchange will also allow doctors and other medical practitioners to assist citizens more efficiently and effectively."

Member States have already started to make some parts of electronic health records accessible and exchangeable across borders. Since 21 January 2019, Finnish citizens can buy medicines using their ePrescriptions in Estonia and Luxembourgish doctors will be soon able to access the patient summaries of Czech patients.

The Commission's recommendations propose that Member States extend this work to three new areas of the health record, namely to laboratory tests, medical discharge reports and images and imaging reports. In parallel, the initiative paves the way for development of the technical specifications to be used to exchange health records in each case.

As a result, access to complete and personal health records across the EU can offer immense benefits to European citizens, such as the following:

  • If someone has an accident while travelling in another EU Member State, doctors will have immediate access to information about the patient (e.g. details of chronic conditions, allergies or intolerances to certain medications). This can significantly increase their ability to provide the most effective and timely treatment.
  • Increasing the quality and ensure continuity of care for citizens as they move around the EU.
  • Boosting medical research into major health challenges such as chronic and neurodegenerative diseases, by easing the sharing of data. This is subject to the citizen's consent, in a meaningful manner and in full compliance with European data protection rules.
  • Supporting the efficiency and sustainability of health systems by, for instance, sharing patient's recent laboratory or radiology tests of a patient. In this manner, a hospital in another Member State will not need to repeat similar tests, saving time and reducing hospital costs.

The next step is for a Joint Coordination Process between the Commission and the Member States to be set up. This is to allow for contributions and input from stakeholders such as industry representatives, health professionals and patients representatives at both EU and national level.

Commission Recommendation on a European electronic Health Record exchange format

European Electronic Health Record exchange 
format - background guide

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