Interoperability of Electronic Health Records in Europe: Facilitating Cross Border Cooperation

By Anett Molnar, senior manager, Public Policy and Engagement, HIMSS International

Have you heard of European electronic health records (EEHR) exchange format yet?

If you haven’t, but you have an interest in sharing, exchanging or accessing healthcare records in Europe in one way or another, watch this space, as the European Commission plans to publish a recommendation on the technical specifications for a EEHR exchange format in the spring.

The EEHR exchange format is part of a bigger plan, one of many ambitious initiatives announced back in April 2018 as part of the Commission’s Communication: enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market; empowering citizens and building a healthier society.

The EU’s Aim is to Support Modernisation and Improve Efficiency

In Europe, member states have primary responsibility over organising and delivering health services and medical care, and European Union policies and actions aim to compliment national efforts by supporting the modernisation of the health infrastructure and improve efficiency of the health system as a whole.

Health data comes in various forms and currently there is no standardised approach on how to manage it, which raises various challenges on a national as well as a pan-European level. If we add various languages as well as different levels of digital maturity into the picture, it just adds even more layers of complexity to the matter!

Health Data Often Depends on Technologies That Are Not Interoperable

According to the European Commission – and this comes as no surprise for us living in Europe – in most cases, heath data is not available to the patients themselves or to public authorities, medical professionals or researchers to help them develop and deliver better diagnosis, treatment or personalised care. Even when it is available, health data often depends on technologies that are not interoperable, thus hindering its wider use.

Therefore, the plan is to monitor the cross-border interoperability of electronic health record systems and identify incentives for adopting the EEHR exchange format widely across the EU as well as continue financing projects that can lead to large-scale improvements. What we know so far about the exchange format is that it will be based on open standards and uptake will rely on voluntary adoption of the industry and the entire ecosystem.

Starting with Cross Border Patient Summary and ePrescriptions

Current cross-border health data exchanges are based on voluntary cooperation between member states and currently limited to two use cases: Patient Summaries and ePrescriptions, with a handful of countries involved. Hopefully, adopting the EEHR exchange format in the future can give a much needed boost to improve interoperability and extend the scale of the cross-border data exchanges at a much larger scale. In addition to the use health data within healthcare settings, the impact for public health, research and innovation could be game changing.

The HIMSS Nordic Community members are very much involved in the developments within their region, with Finland and Estonia leading on exchanging data in regards to both use cases and considering extending it to electronic health records. Key stakeholders working on health information exchange projects in the Nordics will join the Interoperability Showcase at HIMSS19 in Orlando in February next year to share their experience with the global audience and meet those fellow pioneers who are working on similar initiatives in other corners of the word.

Mark Your Calendars

Learn more about Interoperability in the Nordics and next HIMSS Nordic Community milestones during HIMSS19

Interoperability in Europe: From Shared Vision to Common Action
Thursday, February 14, 11:30am-12:30am ET
HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, Booth 9100, Hall F. Tangerine Ballroom


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