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Facilitating access to cross-border eHealth services: a task for the European Health Insurance Card?

20/04/2012 Facilitating access to cross-border eHealth services: a task for the European Health Insurance Card?

The European Health Insurance Card is being used in epSOS, a pilot project co-financed by the European Commission, which aims at developing cross-border eHealth services to improve the quality and safety of healthcare for citizens travelling to another European country.

The project consists in developing an eHealth framework and ICT infrastructure that enable secure access to patient health information among different European healthcare systems. This includes making patients' medical records (Patient summary) available electronically and using cross-border electronic prescriptions (ePrescription).

The European Health Insurance Card is being tested in the project as one of the tools for identifying patients. It allows holders to provide health professionals with the identification data they need to access the patient's electronic medical record or prescriptions when seeking healthcare in participating epSOS pilot countries - whether as tourists, business travellers, commuters or exchange students, for example.

The card has the advantage of being a document shared by all persons insured in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and clearly recognisable as related to healthcare. However, the use of the card in the epSOS project does not include the reimbursement arrangements which stem from the current legal provisions on the coordination of social security systems.

epSOS can make a significant contribution to patient safety by reducing the frequency of medical errors and by providing quick access to documentation. In emergency situations, this documentation provides the medical personnel with life-saving information and reduces the (sometimes needless) repetition of diagnostic procedures.

As from 13 April 2012, the technical, legal and organisational concepts developed within the framework of the project are subject to an extensive practical testing phase over one year. For the first time, patients in Europe will have the opportunity to use cross-border eHealth services when seeking healthcare in participating epSOS pilot countries.