Patient safety and continuity of care
Finnish patients are now able to go to a pharmacy in Estonia and retrieve medicine prescribed electronically by their doctor in Finland. The initiative applies to all ePrescriptions prescribed in Finland and to the Estonian pharmacies that have signed the agreement. The novelty of this initiative is that the ePrescriptions are visible electronically to participating pharmacists in the receiving country via the new eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure, without the patient having to provide a written prescription. This is in line with the policy on Digital Health and Care, which aims to empower patients by giving access to their health data and ensuring continuity of care.
“We must make it as easy as possible for people to get treatment or medicines when abroad in the EU. The next major step will be to simplify patient access to their very own health data, by developing a common format for exchanging electronic health records between EU countries.” – said Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the Digital Single Market
European Commission will soon present a Recommendation on the Eu EHR Exchange Format
“Sharing ePrescriptions and Patient Summaries will be crucial for patient safety as it can help doctors to better understand a foreign patient’s medical history and can reduce the risks of incorrect medication and the costs of duplicate tests” – said Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
In 2011, the European institutions adopted Directive 2011/24 which ensures continuity of care for European citizens across borders. The directive gives the possibility for Member States to exchange health data in a secure, efficient and interoperable way. The following cross-border health services are now being progressively introduced in all EU Member States:
- ePrescription and eDispensation allow any EU citizen to retrieve his/her medication in a pharmacy located in another EU Member State, thanks to the electronic transfer of their prescription from his/her country of residence to the country of travel. The country of residence is then informed about the retrieved medicine in the visited country;
- Patient Summaries provide background information on important health-related aspects such as allergies, current medication, previous illness, surgeries, etc., making it digitally accessible in case of a medical (emergency) visit in another country. It is an abstract of a larger collection of health data called the European Health Record. To make this a reality, the Commission will soon be presenting a Recommendation on the European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format.
Data protection rules are strictly observed and patients will have to provide their consent before these services are accessed. Both services were made possible thanks to the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure which connects the eHealth national services, allowing them to exchange health data, and which is funded by the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility.
The digital network is growing
22 Member States are part of the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure and are expected to exchange ePrescriptions and Patient Summaries by the end of 2021. 10 Member States (Finland, Estonia, Czechia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Belgium) may start these exchanges by the end of 2019.
The eHealth Network (the body of eHealth authorities in the EU) has recently given the green light to Finland and Estonia to start exchanging ePrescriptions and to Czechia and Luxembourg to receive Patient Summaries of foreign citizens.