With InteropEHRate, Europe wants to have open protocols for sharing medical data at the level of the 28 Member States. This innovative and ambitious, patient-centric project should promote the exchange of health information between European citizens, health professionals, and researchers.
The situation is clear. In terms of sharing and access to medical data, Europe lags behind the United States. Since 2015, under the leadership of the Obama administration and its Meaningful Use Stage 3 program, Uncle Sam has made interoperability and access to medical data his priority. The USA has laid the foundations for a health system in which patients are at the center of care and have permanent and easy access to their electronic health data. Health care providers can also access and use health data from different sources continuously and securely (1). The concrete effects of this proactive policy were pretty effective. “In a few years, all hospitals have turned to their respective software vendors and asked them to make their products accessible via any other software (API)," notes Vincent Keunen, CEO of Andaman7, the well known platform whose goal is to enable multiple interactions between patients and health stakeholders. "In a few years, the software vendors became open and fortunately they chose a common standard, FHIR. This decision put an end to some data silos, at least at the hospital level. This is the first time I have seen a standard so quickly adopted by so many stakeholders."
What about Europe? Nothing like that exists right now. For example, it is almost impossible for an EU citizen to share health data with a hospital in a European country other than his own (and often in his own country too!). It is obviously easier to develop a single sovereign nation than a political entity with 28 Member States, and as many, if not more, electronic health data management systems. But the situation could change rapidly.
A bottom-up approach to data sharing
InteroEHRate is an ambitious European Union commissioned program that creates a patient centric, bottom-up approach to data sharing. It is implemented by a rather exceptional consortium of companies (including Andaman7), renowned institutions and experts (see interopehrate.eu for the full list). The research project was launched on January 1st, 2019 and with a budget of €7 million. It is in line with Recommendation C(2019) 800 recently issued by the European Commission. It will pave the way for fully interoperable electronic health data exchange (EHR) formats. However, it differs from existing projects because of its patient-centred approach!
"Until now, the European Commission's approach to medical data exchange policy has been mainly top-down. Typically, the exchange of patient data was only considered through national online contact points," says Matteo Melideo, head of the Information Systems for Healthcare Research Division of the Engineering group and coordinator of the InteropEHRate project. "What we want to do is propose a more bottom-up, decentralized strategy, in which key health data is managed by patients themselves, through intelligent electronic health records stored on their mobile devices. Thanks to InteropEHRate, a patient will be able to collect, consult and share medical data with healthcare professionals or researchers anywhere in Europe. In particular, he will be able to exchange this information with a doctor of his choice, even without an Internet connection, thanks to a local connection".
First results at the end of 2019
The innovative InteropEHRate programme should enable Europe to move from a "closed" model, driven solely by national healthcare organisations, to a vast ecosystem based on an open healthcare platform, where software providers, institutions and citizens from different countries can safely collaborate to improve healthcare and medical research, using standard technologies. Among the participants in the InteropEHRate program, everyone is confident in the validity of this innovative approach. "The project is planned to last for forty-two months, but we should already be able to present our first results and prototypes well before that, probably by the end of this year," says Matteo Melideo. "It should be noted that we are one of only two European funded projects specifically dedicated to interoperability. There is therefore a good chance that our work can change the future of healthcare and medical research in Europe. That is what we hope for, anyway. And we are confident about the results we can deliver.”
(1) Interoperability. www.healthit.gov
An exceptional consortium
InteropEHRate is a consortium of fifteen qualified European partners and experts from industry, SMEs, non-governmental organisations, hospitals, research centres and public bodies. The contributors to the project are: Andaman7, Engineering – Ingegneria Informatica, EHTEL – European Health Telematics Association, DTCA Hygeia – Diagnostic and Therapeutic Center of Athens, University of Trento, University of Vienna, EFN – European Federation of Nurses Associations, FTGM – Fondazione Toscana Gabriele Monasterio per la Ricerca Medica e di Sanità Pubblica, CHU de Liège – Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Liège, UBITECH, University of Piraeus Research Center, “Bagdasar-Arseni” Clinical Emergency Hospital of Bucharest, SIVECO, Fraunhofer ISST – Institute for Software and Systems Engineering, Iatrikos Syllogos Athinon and Byte Computer.
Geographically speaking, the following countries are represented: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania.
Andaman7: an appreciated collaboration
Within the InteropEHRate consortium, Andaman7's support in the development of the project is particularly appreciated. "They are very enthusiastic and their contribution is extremely positive," says Matteo Melideo. "The interface they have succeeded in developing is also, in a way, the inspiration for our project. It allows everyone to have their health data on their phone and share them with a doctor or hospital of their choice. They have first-hand experience of this possibility in the American market". In fact, the application developed by this Belgian-American e-health company is now integrated with a very large number of hospitals in the United States, allowing 85% of all americans to retrieve their health data directly from their hospital / clinic and thus automatically enrich their health record and get real control over their health data.