If it is up to the European Commission, doctors and other healthcare specialists will have direct access to the medical data of European citizens in the future. A European electronic health record should not only save lives, but also give citizens “complete control” over their medical data, both at home and abroad. The Commission calls it a “historic step forward towards digital healthcare in the EU”.
The EU’s executive board announces the ambitious plans via a press release.
‘Building block of the European Health Union’
The European Health Data Space (EHDS) is to be “one of the central building blocks of a strong European Health Union”. The idea behind this legislation is that Europeans can share their health data with doctors and other professionals in the health and care sector. It does not matter whether you are in your own country or if you are visiting another EU Member State.
Suppose you are a heart patient and on holiday in Europe. In the unlikely event that you lose your medicines, or have packed too few pills, you can get a new dose from your GP with a European electronic patient file. If you have ever undergone medical examinations in the past, the results can be found in the file. After all, you never know when a doctor will need this information.
‘A historic step forward’
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, thinks the EHDS will save lives. Citizens also gain full control over their medical data. “The European Health Data Space represents a fundamental breakthrough in the digital transformation of healthcare in the EU. The initiative puts citizens at the centre and gives them full control over their data to get better healthcare across the EU.”
The European Commissioner promises that the medical data in the European electronic health record will meet the highest requirements in terms of security and privacy. She calls the legislation “a historic step forward towards digital healthcare in the EU”.
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission, is proud of the initiative and has high hopes for it. “The European Health Data Area will be a new start for the EU’s digital health policy, putting health data at the service of citizens and science. Today we are laying the foundation for secure and reliable access to health data that is fully in line with the fundamental values that underpin the EU,” said the Vice-President.
EHDS gives ‘solid legal framework’ to European Health Union
The EHDS is urgently needed, according to the European Commission. At the moment it is very difficult to access or exchange health data due to the forest of rules in the individual Member States. As a result, unnecessary human lives are at stake. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are also increasingly the target of cyberattacks. Strict requirements regarding interoperability and security are therefore in order. Finally, researchers gain access to large amounts of anonymized health data. With this data they can work on “the next life-saving treatments, vaccines or medical devices”, says European Commissioner Kyriakides.
To make all this possible, a “solid legal framework” is needed. The EHDS creates the conditions and requirements for research, innovation, public health, policy-making and regulation. Researchers, companies and institutions only have access to health data if they have a license from a medical supervisor of a member state that has yet to be established.
EU expects to recoup high costs quickly
The realization of a European electronic patient file is going to cost a lot of money. The American news agency Bloomberg reports based on internal documents that the cost of the EHDS will be between 700 million and 2.5 billion euros. Vice-President Schinas is confident that the expenses will be recovered quickly. “In the EU, we spend 14 billion euros annually on medical scans. 10 per cent of that is totally unnecessary because we don’t have a common space that can rationalize this kind of spending,” she said at a press conference on the bill on Tuesday.
The European Commission’s bill has yet to be discussed by the European Parliament and the European Council. The latter consists of the heads of government or elected heads of state of all 27 EU member states.
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