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Commission issues interoperability statement


3 July, 2008  

The European Commission yesterday issued a recommendation on the cross-border interoperability of electronic health record (EHR) systems, targeting fully integrated EU-wide e-health interoperability by the end of 2015.

This is the first EC document to formally address the steps that Member States should take and underlines the importance of the EU-27 as principal decision-makers in respect of regulatory and financial matters. It places responsibilities on Member States that include research, inter-country dialogue, analysis of risks, provision of resources, implementation and more. It also calls for mutually recognisable conformity testing procedures for EHRs across the EU.

To mark the launch, the Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, said: “Travelling around the European Union is taken for granted until something goes wrong, [which] is why the EU’s initiatives on e-health intend to remove linguistic, administrative and technical barriers, by making it easier for people to receive treatment even when they are away from their home country. I expect our recommendation to make an important contribution to saving patients’ lives in emergencies.”

Ilias Iakovidis, Reding’s Deputy Head of ICT for Health, an expert in eHealth Europe-wide, added: “The benefits of interoperability are clear. First, the individual patient benefits from better care due to the ability of healthcare providers to access information. Second, society benefits through having better public health and improved cost efficiency. Thirdly, industry will benefit from having a level-playing field across Europe.”

Iakovidis, who will be addressing industry and other stakeholders on behalf of the Commission at the World of Health IT Conference and Exhibition in Copenhagen later this year, also had a clear message for industry, saying: “There will not be, and should not be, any monopolies within e-health – there are too many players. Industry needs to deal with interoperability as soon as possible.”

EHR systems clearly need to be able to interoperate, so that any ‘foreign’ doctor can quickly and easily access a patient’s vital information in a usable format and in his or her own language, direct from the database of the patient’s own doctor.
 
In its recommendation, the Commission has set out guidelines with a view to creating a minimum level of steps to ensure that EHR can cross-borders effectively within the EU.  These cover: emergency data and patient summaries; the sharing of data among different EU healthcare systems based on a limited range of applications already in use, and; the building of networks that fulfil required legal, operational and educational aims.

Information Society

For further details on the 2008 edition of the World of Health IT Conference and Exhibition, go to www.worldofhealthit.org