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European electronic health record exchange format adopted

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The European Commission has adopted a Recommendation on a European Electronic Health Record exchange format. The Recommendation supports the digital transformation of health and care in the EU by seeking to unlock the flow of health data across borders.

The Recommendation seeks to facilitate the cross-border interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) in the EU by supporting Members States in their efforts to ensure that citizens can securely access and exchange their health data wherever they are in the EU. It will help citizens, of any age*, to quickly access and share their health data with healthcare professionals, for example, when consulting a specialist or receiving emergency treatment in another EU country.

Enabling citizens to securely access and share their health data across borders is one of the priorities of the Communication on enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market. Moreover, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) underlines that citizens have the right to access their personal data and provides the legal framework for the protection of personal data, setting out directly applicable rules for the processing of individuals’ personal data, including their health data. Rules for facilitating the access to safe and high-quality cross-border healthcare are provided for by the Directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.

The Recommendation sets out a framework for the further development of a European EHR exchange format that will enable citizens to securely access and exchange their health data across borders in the EU. Together with laying down a set of common technical specifications for the cross-border exchange of data, the Recommendation delineates a set of principles that should govern this exchange and a process for further development, monitoring and review.
The Recommendation underlines that moving towards interoperable EHRs in the EU should go hand in hand with ensuring data protection and security, in line with the GDPR, and full compliance with the cybersecurity framework.
A joint coordination process involving the Member States and the Commission is envisaged in order to support the further elaboration of the European EHR exchange format. This process will also engage all relevant stakeholders, including healthcare professional organisations, national competence centres, industry actors and patients groups, as well as other Union and national authorities.

The full text of the Recommendation can be downloaded here.

* Health care needs are expected to further increase in the future as a result of population ageing, rising prevalence of chronic conditions and a rise in demand for long-term care. This is evidenced by health spending amounting to 9.6% of Gross Domestic Product in the Union as a whole in 2017, up from 8.8% in 2008. Similarly, evidence from various countries suggest that up to 20% of health care spending is wasteful, for example because patients receive unnecessary tests or treatments, or as a result of avoidable hospital admissions.

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