Finns take first steps towards European Health Record

As Australia gets ready for the vast bulk of its population to be able to access a summary of their health data and share it with their healthcare professionals through the My Health Record, the European Union is getting ready to create what is in effect a European-wide Electronic Health Record through an agreed data exchange format.

This week, Finland and Estonia became the first EU countries to allow digital prescriptions issued in one country to be retrieved electronically when the patient is in the other country without having to present a written script.

It is the first initiative taking advantage of the EU's new eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure, which is being built to allow ePrescribing and eDispensing in 22 member states along with the exchange of patient summaries, which are described as a snapshot of a European EHR. The 22 member states involved are expected to be exchanging ePrescriptions and patient summaries by the end of 2021, with 10 likely to start by the end of this year.

The next step is to agree to an exchange format for the EHR and a set of common technical specifications for the transfer of health data in categories such as patient summaries and ePrescriptions. The member states are all in varying stages of digitising their health systems and implementing EHRs that are accessible to their citizens and lack of interoperability between systems is considered a serious challenge, one that the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure hopes to help overcome.

Over at the troubled child of the EU – or is that petulant teenager? – the UK government released a long-term plan for its National Health Service earlier this month, which includes eight milestones for digital technology. It foresees patients communicating with their healthcare providers and accessing their data using the NHS App this year, and everyone having a Local Health Care Record (LHCR), which will be linked by a longitudinal health and care record platform, in the next few years. The plan seems to have been received well, but there are some doubters on whether the milestones can be achieved on time.

Back home, and the RACGP released with surprisingly little fanfare a report on what it thinks should be the minimum requirements for clinical software used in general practice. The report, funded by the Australian Digital Health Agency and developed in association with the Medical Software Industry Association, builds on previous work by the college's eHealth and practice systems committee, now renamed the RACGP practice technology and management committee.

It outlines what everyone thinks are priority areas to improve software usability, but will still need a lot of effort to make its recommendations a reality. It will also need an agreed set of technical standards, which will require more work and, of course, more funding. Have a read of the report and let us know what you think.

Meanwhile, ADHA this week switched on a function allowing people to permanently delete their My Health Record. This has been a point of disagreement within the eHealth community for the six years the system has been in operation. The Department of Health always argued that cancelling a record was enough, as it's just not the done thing in healthcare to destroy medical records, but full delete capability was pushed strongly by people like Greens leader Richard Di Natale during the recent big debate. His view has prevailed as part of a raft of measures the government introduced to reassure skittish consumers about the safety of the system. We'll follow up after the opt-out and reconciliation periods end in about a month and see how many people took that step.

That brings us to our poll question from last week, when we asked if you thought there would be another big surge in people opting out of MyHR. This was a close one: 52 per cent said yes while 48 per cent said no.

This week, our poll question is: Do you think the RACGP's recommendations should be adopted?

Sign up to our weekend edition or Pulse+IT Chat to vote, or leave your thoughts below.

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