Wednesday, October 07, 2015

eHealth interoperability: The scene is now clearly shaped

Last July, the European Commission recognised 27 profiles and standards for healthcare systems to be developed through public procurement. This is a step forward for reaching the European Digital Single Market in eHealth.

Many countries in Europe are developing eHealth strategies in order to offer their citizens a better quality of care within a financially sustainable healthcare system. The population is ageing and has specific needs, whilst mobility is increasing in Europe.
These challenges are addressed with the development of new technologies that support the necessary and required connection of healthcare ICT used in healthcare organisations and at regional, national and cross-border levels.
In this respect, a common European Interoperability Framework was defined and published by the European Commission in 2012. It describes an initial set of use cases and a selection of 27 Profiles and Standards.
After an evaluation process and consultation of the European multi-stakeholder platform for ICT, the European Commission has now identified and recognised these 27 so called IHE ("Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise") Profiles for procurement.

Exchanging medical data

What are IHE Profiles? They are an international specification dedicated to the healthcare domain for exchanging medical data among healthcare systems. Most of these profiles are used in many projects in Europe or around the world and allow harmonisation amongst Member States for achieving the Digital Single Market.
The profiles are also used in the specifications of the epSOS project for exchanging Patient Summaries and ePrescriptions for patients travelling across Europe.

This will accelerate the deployment of eHealth

For many European countries that have already been using such a set of profiles in correspondence with the eHealth Interoperability Framework, this recognition will accelerate the deployment of eHealth and will support their eHealth strategies of the last couple of years.
Experts working on eHealth projects should build or extend their interoperability specifications by referencing and building upon these profiles, and select those that meet their interoperability use cases. Such shared specifications will not only reduce the project specification efforts, but also facilitate implementation by vendors through software and significantly reduce the testing efforts both for the software developers and the eHealth projects.
These test tools are available and support developers for implementing the 27 IHE profiles in their products or projects.


In addition, the yearly European Connectathon encourages vendors and projects to test their products against their peers, to share their experiences and benefit from the knowledge imparted by international standard experts. The next annual Connectathon will take place on 11-15 April 2016 and will be hosted by Germany.
The scene is now clearly shaped: Interoperability knowledge is sufficiently shared in Europe amongst the workforce from vendors, national or regional centers of competences or care providers. This will ensure large scale deployment of eHealth in Europe with the integration of innovative solutions such as mobiles and homecare devices.
Peter Mildenberger is Professor of Radiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. He is also co-chair of IHE-Europe, a non-profit association dedicated to interoperability in health information technology.


Author: Peter Mildenberger, published in DAE blog on 06/10/2015