European Reference Networks

ERNs and COVID-19

In the context of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission launched the COVID-19 Clinical Management Support System (CMSS). The aim is to support doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in hospitals that are currently dealing with COVID-19 cases all over the EU, UK and the EEA countries. This system allows for professionals to communicate easily with colleagues, exchange knowledge, discuss cases and improve training, namely via webinars.

Why joining the CMSS?

Based on the experience with the European Reference Networks, the initiative helps create rapid connections across Europe among all involved healthcare professionals and hospitals in the management of COVID-19.

Health workers can rely on a dedicated helpdesk managed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to set up web conferences and exchange with their peers in Europe opinions about possible treatments and about how to handle severe and complex cases.

This teamwork aims at speeding up the exchange of information on specific treatment options and help reduce some of the uncertainties due to the unknown clinical aspects of the disease. Ultimately, it is in the vital interest of the patients infected with COVID-19 that their doctors can discuss their cases and get the best advice possible. 

For joining the system, please register online

How does it work

After registering, the helpdesk will contact you and provide information on how to request the organisation of web conferences or webinars along with a database of the participant clinicians, including their affiliation and contact details (country, hospital, name, email address and phone number).

The treatment of the personal information of the participants complies with the Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data. See the specific Privacy Statement.

The COVID-19 CMSS consists of:

  • a database of clinicians treating the disease (the COVID-19 Clinicians Network) 
  • a central helpdesk managed by DG SANTE
  • a web conferencing system (WebEx communication tool) for online conferences and webinars, which allows sharing computer screens (X-rays, text…) and using mobile devices and
  • a simple and easy procedure for web conferences and webinars, following the request of any of the hospitals identified as reference centres across the EU

Detailed information on the workflow of the system is included in the factsheet on COVID-19 CMSS.

The system, in operation since 23 March 2020, was presented to the competent national authorities during EU’s Health Security Committee and has been widely advertised to the healthcare professionals’ community.

The ERN Board of Member States fully supports the COVID-19 CMSS initiative, and is committed to making it known and in assisting its implementation in their respective countries.

The scope of the project is to focus exclusively on the support of clinicians in their daily practice, not so much to address the strategic, organisational, logistical and public health (epidemiological or surveillance) aspects of the pandemic.

CMSS and ERNs Webinars

In the context of the “COVID-19 Clinical Management Support System” launched by the European Commission, DG SANTE organise a series of webinars to support clinicians and other healthcare professionals at the frontline of the care of COVID-19 patients. Based on the experience with the European Reference Networks (ERNs), these series of webinars will bring the expertise and recommendations of some of the experts of the 24 ERNs in the management of some of the more complex cases of patients suffering at the same time of COVID-19 and a rare or complex disease or conditions.

What are the ERNs doing to help patients affected by rare diseases and COVID-19?

The ERNs are facing unprecedented challenge to help patients affected by rare diseases who are also infected with the new coronavirus to receive care and cure adequate to their specific situation. Several ERNs have set up targeted initiatives.


The evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic affects countries with different levels of severity and with a different timing. 

Many patients are in need of highly specialised care. In particularly severe cases, the practical experience on how to manage patients is scarce and scattered across Europe, as the concrete techniques and treatments are, in many cases, experimental and there are limitations to access the knowledge generated since the start of the outbreak.

The European Commission can provide significant added-value by connecting the dots, bringing expertise together, and that is exactly the essence of the CMSS initiative, which is inspired by the experience of the European Reference Networks.

Useful information

Useful links