EU regional and local leaders have supported the European Commission's proposals for a European Health Data Space, while stressing that health-care services must fully protect patients' privacy and data rights.
In their opinion on "Regulation on the European Health Data Space", adopted on 8 February at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, regional and local leaders noted the benefits of a European Health Data Space for patients as well as for research and development. They agreed that the smooth functioning of a cross-border system involving 27 Member States makes some common rules and data harmonisation essential.
The opinion was drafted by Daniela Cîmpean (RO/EPP), president of Sibiu County Council. She said: "The European Health Data Space is a framework that ensures the exchange of essential and crucial medical data to save human lives. The benefits of such a framework were confirmed to me by the citizens of Sibiu County, where I implemented a digital medical filing system. Now they have easier access to medical data, which is just a click away. At the same time, by allowing health professionals access to their medical history, patients can benefit from a more accurate diagnosis with a more appropriate treatment based on complete and relevant data."
Ms Cîmpean highlighted the practical solution she brought on the local level: "As a leader of an authority that is responsible for the largest hospitals in the county, I can see the usefulness of the long-term collection of medical data, which absolutely validates the levels of investment in the local health infrastructure: based on the real needs of our citizens, as was clearly shown from the health data we were able to collect, we invested in a new regional emergency care hospital. This evidence-based investment, together with the benefits of health data processing by healthcare providers, researchers and regulators, make the EHDS a central component of a strong European Health Union."
Local representatives also underlined that the success of the European Health Data Space will depend on multi-level governance solutions and approaches, not only at EU and national level, but also at regional and local level.
The opinion argues that one of the key aspects for the implementation of EDHS is citizens' trust in the system’s ability to protect their data. Europeans must feel sure that their personal health data will be processed with the utmost care, within a robust framework, and through data protection and security systems with appropriate safeguards. All parties involved must comply with the highest standards of data protection and security, the opinion insists.
The opinion identifies a range of other requirements for the successful development of a European Health Data Space. These include adequate financial, time and human resources and infrastructure, including physical infrastructure, at national, regional and local levels, to meet the challenges of storing, accessing and exchanging health data used for health services, research, policy-making, and regulatory activities.
The rapporteur underlined that several Member States are already working at national and decentralised level to find digital solutions for sharing data across sectors and many other elements included in the regulation. The experience gained from such initiatives should be taken and used in the future within the EHDS.
Background material: The plenary agenda and opinions and amendments.
Webstreaming: On the website of the CoR.
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