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European Health Data Space: safe and secure information

European Health Data Space

2025 is the year by which, in theory, the European Health Data System should be in place. This is an ambitious and long-awaited EU initiative to make this system one of the pillars of the European Health Union.

But what is the European Health Data Space? It is the first common EU data space in a specific area, in this case health. The proposal aims to give citizens control over their health data, whether they are in their home country or in another Member State. This would allow citizens to rectify errors in their records, add information, share their medical records with other hospitals, restrict their access or know which health professionals have accessed their data.

A major boost for research

But this initiative not only gives each patient more control over their health data, but it also opens an exciting window for research and innovation. The European Health Data Space will create a solid legal framework to allow institutions, researchers, and industry to access this information, which will be anonymised and protected.

“The primary use of the data focuses on the collection of data by healthcare and/or research staff for a specific purpose, so it cannot be used for any other purpose, greatly limiting the potential impact of the data. The European Health Data Space aims to promote the secondary use of data, taking advantage of primary data sources, and thus really aggregate numerous data sources that allow us to identify new targets and be able to develop new therapies or carry out research related to prevention and clearly identify habits that can generate pathologies, know health trends, make diagnoses… In this way we can formulate strategies and policies that can act in the prevention and early and accurate diagnosis of diseases”, analyses Laura Sesma, leader of the Health Knowledge Area of Zabala Innovation.

To solve the doubts generated by the security and privacy of the data, this European Health Data Space will consider The Data Governance Act, the General Data Protection Regulation, and the Cybersecurity Directive, which will offer a reliable and trustworthy framework for the treatment of this data.

The foundations for the European Health Data Space

So far, the biggest advance in EU health for Member States has been the eHealth digital services infrastructure (Ehdsi). Through the MyHealth@EU brand, citizens in some EU countries can already access their electronic prescriptions in other countries (although the medicines may not be available in that country or may be called by a different name), and healthcare workers can consult the summary history of patients in other countries.

These measures are in the development phase and have not yet been implemented by all 27 Member States. “We have to be realistic with the difficulties that currently exist in providing cross-border health services, there are still many differences between countries in terms of health systems, data… We hope that this tool will solve these coordination problems, and that in this way it will not be complicated to reach agreements to provide health services to all citizens,” said Laura Sesma.

Funding for this common area

EU funding programmes are already targeting the consolidation of this common healthcare area, with the promotion of artificial intelligence and digitalisation as the main allies.

“There are many funding opportunities to make the European Health Data Space a reality. There are already published calls for collaborative projects in Horizon Europe or the EU4Health programme, with joint programming actions and tenders, which directly or indirectly lay the foundations for the infrastructures and secondary use of data proposed by this space. Therefore, entities must take advantage of these new funding opportunities to advance as much as possible and remain at the European forefront,” concludes Laura Sesma.

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