EU Commission promotes cross-border access to electronic medical records.

KG – 02/2019

What’s the objective?

The overall aim is to ensure the best possible healthcare for citizens regardless of their current whereabouts in the EU. Interoperability is the means of achieving this. The ability of citizens to access the health data summarised in their Electronic Health Record (EHR) varies widely between Member States.


In its recommendations from February 2019, the Commission highlights five key areas that will be available digitally in the EU: patient summaries, ePrescriptions, laboratory results, medical imaging and reports, and hospital discharge reports.

What does it mean?

Healthcare providers and hospitals which have cross-border access to information on important health issues such as allergies, previous illnesses and currently prescribed medicines, could treat any patient across the EU based on that person’s individual needs. The aim is therefore to increase the quality and continuity of care.

In addition, healthcare costs, such as those which occur as the result of unnecessarily repeating a medical test, could be avoided if prior laboratory results and medical imaging are available. The Commission believes that this will not only reduce medical costs but also save patients valuable time.

As the population continues to age and the prevalence of chronic diseases increases, the need for healthcare will also continue to rise. European health systems need to find the solutions to future challenges.

In figures

The numbers already show that there is a need for a well-functioning digital infrastructure offering these benefits, with over 2 million registered cases per year in which citizens have used healthcare in Member States other than their own. Furthermore, according to a Eurobarometer survey, 52% of EU citizens would like online access to their health data, but only 18% have done so in the past. In addition, the Commission predicts a potential saving of over 20% in healthcare expenditure if the number of unnecessary tests, treatments and hospitalisations can be reduced.

The process

Developing the cross-border exchange of important health data is a complex technical process, requiring the EU-wide interoperability of digital systems. The recommendations include technical specifications and standards that build on and enhance existing structures of the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI) and the work of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).


The Commission has stressed the importance of close cooperation with Member States and their national contact points for eHealth in a common coordination process and roadmap for dynamic improvements.


Focus on security

In terms of cybersecurity and privacy, Member States are encouraged to maintain the highest standards in order to win the confidence of future users and thus reveal the added value of the data exchange programme. All measures must comply with the principles of confidentiality, integrity and availability laid down in the General Data Protection Regulation.

The risks of manipulation or misuse are to be counteracted by regulations on electronic identification and authentication. The Commission refers to the Directive on the security of network and information systems which ensures that certain standards are met by the Member States as long as they comply with the Directive.

Of particular importance to ‘citizen empowerment’, as described by the Commission’s Communication on the digital transformation of healthcare from April 2018, every citizen should be able to decide which information they want to provide access to and by whom.


How much of a contribution this will make towards an EU Single Digital Market depends heavily on Member States getting involved and implementing the exchange programme. Since January 2019, it has been possible to use ePrescriptions between Finland and Estonia, which confirms their position as European champions in Digital Public Services. By the end of 2020, another 20 Member States will have followed suit, including Germany.