Imagine you have your medical record posted in a safe place in the cloud. Your usual clinicians can access it, but also any emergency doctor admitting you, unconscious from an accident or a medical crisis anywhere in Europe. The European Commission is funding projects to develop the structures and semantics needed to achieve this interoperability.

Published Friday, 19 December, 2014
Updated Monday, 16 March, 2015

This is a guest blog post written by Prof Dipak Kalra, President of EuroRec, Scientific co-ordinator of SemanticHealthNet

Imagine you have your medical record posted in a safe place in the cloud. You can read it in words you can understand, any time your want. You can take it with you on any trip abroad, for doctors to read it in any language in any country you choose to travel to. Your general practitioner and your specialist(s) can access it, but also any emergency doctor admitting you, unconscious from an accident or a medical crisis.

Europe is building electronic highways of medical information, called eHEALTH platforms. These allow the medical information to circulate freely but privacy-protected between health care providers, institutions, policy makers, and researchers.  However, building highways is not enough to enable safe traffic flows. In order to let the information seamlessly flow from one system to the other, something called “semantic interoperability” needs to be achieved.

The European Union has brought together 17 top institutes and more that 50 experts in a Network of Excellence for Semantic Interoperability. The short name is SemanticHealthNet (SHN). In this 3 year project (2012-2015), recommendations, proof of concepts and practical assets are being produced. Another European Commission project, Trillium Bridge, is developing assets and strategies for the transatlantic exchange of patient summaries, supporting the EU/US Memorandum on eHealth.  The progress of SHN and Trillium Bridge were presented during the e-Cardiology Congress on October 29-31, in Bern, Switzerland.

The presentations focused on the concrete example (use case) of the care for patients with heart failure.  How to achieve seamless communication between the heart failure specialist, confirming a suspected diagnosis, and the referring GP ? How to use these data for audit and for international scientific registers ? How to assure that a trust wordy summary is available on the net for emergency services, all over Europe and across the Atlantic?

Achieving this takes a lot of steps, which require the full engagement of the scientists of this clinical discipline, and of clinicians working in the field. Cooperating is needed with experts such as linguists, terminologists, knowledge engineers, ontologists, and health informaticians.

It is the task of the SHN Network of Excellence and Trillium Bridge to pave the way, work out the vision, and make sure that investments in this longstanding effort are directed in the right way. In 2015, Trillium Bridge delivers a feasibility study and SemanticHealthNet establishes a scalable and sustainable pan-European organization – a new Institute - to help advance and support this necessary semantic interoperability across the European eHealth landscape.

For more information, please contact:

Prof Dipak Kalra, President of EuroRec, Scientific co-ordinator of SemanticHealthNet

Prof Georges De Moor, Past President of EuroRec, Head of the Department of Health Informatics and Medical Statistics, University of Gent

Prof Robert Vander Stichele, Research in Advanced Medical Informatics and Telematics (RAMIT)

Catherine Chronaki, Secretary General of the HL7 International Foundation

SemanticHealthNet: Dipak Kalra, dipak.kalra@eurorec.org

Trillium Bridge: Catherine Chronaki, euoffice@HL7.org

2nd European e-Cardiology and eHealth Congress

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