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European eHealth Initiatives Change Global Standards Landscape

The European Commission is inducing significant momentum in the adoption of Healthcare IT interoperability as a result of recently launched recommendations and projects. While health remains the responsibility of each one of the 27 European Union Member states, the new projects will coordinate actions European-wide. This is a major development that creates a more cohesive market, and above all accelerate the adoption of standardized heath information exchange.

First an overall recommendation on health records interoperabilityhttp://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/health/docs/policy/20080702-interop_recom.pdf, provides Member States with a framework on how to prepare and introduce connected electronic health records in a manner that will enable their use throughout the EU between now and the end of 2015.

Second a pilot implementation of a European health information network, epSOS or European Patient Smart Open Services Project now underway to examine ways to interconnect the Health information Exchanges from 12 Countries http://www.epsos.eu. This is a 22 Million Euros project co-funded between the Commission and participating Countries including Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Along with these 12 Ministries of Health, an Industry Team of about 30 vendors has been organized under the coordination of IHE-Europe.

Third the eHealth Interoperability Standards Mandate, a request for a plan to the European Standards Organizations (CEN-Health IT, CENELEC-Devices and ETSI-Telecommunication) and to international standards bodies (HL7, ISO, DICOM, etc.). The European Commission has also requested the engagement of IHE, Continua and a vendor association COCIR. This standards mandate first step if to propose a work program and the necessary structure early 2009 to deliver interoperability in Europe by 2011. A draft report has recently been issued for a one month Public Comments http://www.ehealth-interop.eu . The report proposes a use case driven approach with a profile recognition and profile testing activity. This European recognition of profiles is intended to address the intra-hospitals, the intra-country, and the inter-country connections – helping the adoption of a consistent set of profiles and underlying standards.