The ability to exchange health records across borders will benefit citizens seeking treatment while abroad in the EU, such as for specialist advice, or falling ill while travelling, or for those citizens who have moved to another Member State and would like joined up medical records.

The exchange format, as described in the Commission Recommendation, will facilitate cross-border access to Electronic Health Records, while ensuring the highest levels of security and data protection. 

Today in Europe, there is a clear need for well-functioning access to existing data and the right infrastructure to provide timely information on existing health conditions, such as allergies and existing health conditions, and also, where needed, to an individual’s recent laboratory or medical imaging results. This would help health practitioners and hospitals in another Member State to avoid repeating such tests, which can save patients’ time and reduce hospital costs.  Developing the secure exchange of electronic health records across the EU is a complex technical process but one which, in the long run, will improve life for citizens as well as supporting governments and innovators of the next generation of digital solutions and medical treatments. The systems that will transfer such data will be developed taking into account critical aspects, such as cybersecurity and data protection, in order to provide full trust to the European citizens.

The Recommendation builds on steps already taken by Member States

Supported by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Telecom programme, Member States have started work on the exchange of two kinds of medical information (patient summaries and e-prescriptions). In January 2019, the exchange of ePrescriptions became possible between Estonia and Finland, using the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure.

A further 20 Member States are expected to be able to exchange this kind of information by the end of 2021. The Recommendation builds on these efforts and recommends that work on interoperability be further extended to laboratory results, medical images and hospital discharge reports, and puts forward recommended technical specifications for the exchange of this data.

What does the Recommendation consist of?

It proposes a set of common technical specifications for the transfer of health data in chosen health information domains such as Patient Summaries and ePrescriptions, but also laboratory test, images and hospital discharge reportsand the further elaboration of the exchange format through a joint coordination process.

The Joint Coordination Process will involve Member States, the European Commission and relevant stakeholders, who will make sure that the process remains up-to-date, sustainable and constantly develops in a way that addresses the needs of citizens, health systems and society.

Background

The Communication on enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single market, adopted in April 2018, identifies three areas for action: (1) Citizens' secure access to and sharing of health data across borders; (2) Better data to advance research, disease prevention and personalised health and care; (3) Digital tools for citizen empowerment and person-centred care.

Related documents:

EHR Recommendation (PDF)
Q&A on EHR Recommendation
Press release on EHR Recommendation
Infographic: Impact of European Exchange format of Electronic Health Records
Infographic: Recommendation on a EHR exchange format

More Information:
Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market
Factsheet: Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market
Infographic: Digital Health and Care in the EU
European Commission's Digital Single Market mid-term review
Council conclusions on "Health in the digital society – making progress in data-driven innovation in the field of health", adopted on 8 December 2017
Council Conclusions on "Encouraging Member States driven Voluntary Cooperation between Health Systems”, adopted on 16 June 2017
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR
Guidelines on Artificial Intelligence