It has been mentioned many times that the EU has reacted slowly to the epidemic and then with the pandemic of new virus COVID-19. One of the important projects related to the digitalization of health care is the exchange of health data between EU countries.
The project has advanced in the area of data exchange related to eRecipe, as almost all EU countries have introduced eRecipe more or less successfully. However, as far as the mutual exchange of health data is concerned, it works only in 3 countries - Finland, Estonia, and Croatia. And only for eRecipe.
Needless to say, it would be very useful if patient status data regarding COVID-19 could be shared between countries. China has a system that would not normally be applicable in Western countries due to human rights. It is certainly possible to make some compromise that would last until a vaccine is found and a sufficient percentage of the EU population is vaccinated.
It is often said that this crisis could be an opportunity and that the EU is always emerging stronger from the crisis. The health data exchange platform that would now be set up could be used for well-defined health crises in the future under well-defined conditions and in full compliance with the GDPR.
Better cross-border access to health data will improve the quality and continuity of care provided to citizens. It will also lead to reduced health care costs, for example, by eradicating unnecessary duplication of medical tests and procedures.
The pandemic shattered our shared beliefs about the nature and extent of health information exchange. It showed us that the definition of health data should no longer be limited to patients medical data, but should encompass a much wider range of data from individuals online and offline activities. Moreover, the pandemic has proven that health care is not a local matter of individual states or even the EU.
Travel history information should be integrated into the EHR. This would help clinicians to suspect infection. Other non-medical data are also very important as a large number of factors affect the epidemiological situation and very few of them can be quantified by medical data.
We tend to ignore this fact and try to explain and predict the patient’s condition based only on medical data. Previously, the problem was that we did not have the technology and knowledge to collect huge amounts of non-medical data and analyze them for health purposes. Now privacy concerns and outdated regulations have exacerbated the situation and led to a fragmented data ecosystem.
Clinicians must have immediate access to patient data to make health decisions properly. Therefore, improving the exchange of primarily medical but also non-medical health data that affect the health of the population is extremely important. Also, modernizing the protection of personal and health data, both technologically and legally, would increase the health security of European citizens.