Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), Preamble 11 to 20

Preamble 11 to 20, Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), (Proposal_3.5.2022)

(11) Natural persons should be further empowered to exchange and to provide access to personal electronic health data to the health professionals of their choice, going beyond the right to data portability as established in Article 20 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679. This is necessary to tackle objective difficulties and obstacles in the current state of play. Under Regulation (EU) 2016/679, portability is limited only to data processed based on consent or contract, which excludes data processed under other legal bases, such as when the processing is based on law, for example when their processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller.

It only concerns data provided by the data subject to a controller, excluding many inferred or indirect data, such as diagnoses, or tests. Finally, under Regulation (EU) 2016/679, the natural person has the right to have the personal data transmitted directly from one controller to another only where technically feasible. That Regulation, however, does not impose an obligation to make this direct transmission technically feasible. All these elements limit the data portability and may limit its benefits for provision of high-quality, safe and efficient healthcare services to the natural person.

(12) Natural persons should be able to exercise control over the transmission of personal electronic health data to other healthcare providers. Healthcare providers and other organisations providing EHRs should facilitate the exercise of this right. Stakeholders such as healthcare providers, digital health service providers, manufacturers of EHR systems or medical devices should not limit or block the exercise of the right of portability because of the use of proprietary standards or other measures taken to limit the portability.

For these reasons, the framework laid down by this Regulation builds on the right to data portability established in Regulation (EU) 2016/679 by ensuring that natural persons as data subjects can transmit their electronic health data, including inferred data, irrespective of the legal basis for processing the electronic health data. This right should apply to electronic health data processed by public or private controllers, irrespective of the legal basis for processing the data under in accordance with the Regulation (EU) 2016/679. This right should apply to all electronic health data.

(13) Natural persons may not want to allow access to some parts of their personal electronic health data while enabling access to other parts. Such selective sharing of personal electronic health data should be supported. However, such restrictions may have life threatening consequences and, therefore, access to personal electronic health data should be possible to protect vital interests as an emergency override. According to Regulation (EU) 2016/679, vital interests refer to situations in which it is necessary to protect an interest which is essential for the life of the data subject or that of another natural person.

Processing of personal electronic health data based on the vital interest of another natural person should in principle take place only where the processing cannot be manifestly based on another legal basis. More specific legal provisions on the mechanisms of restrictions placed by the natural person on parts of their personal electronic health data should be provided by Member States in national law. Because the unavailability of the restricted personal electronic health data may impact the provision or quality of health services provided to the natural person, he/she should assume responsibility for the fact that the healthcare provider cannot take the data into account when providing health services.

(14) In the context of the EHDS, natural persons should be able to exercise their rights as they are enshrined in Regulation (EU) 2016/679. The supervisory authorities established pursuant to Article 51 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 should remain competent, in particular to monitor the processing of personal electronic health data and to address any complaints lodged by the natural persons. In order to carry out their tasks in the health sector and uphold the natural persons’ rights, digital health authorities should cooperate with the supervisory authorities under Regulation (EU) 2016/679.

(15) Article 9(2), point (h), of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 provides for exceptions where the processing of senstitive data is necessary for the purposes of preventive or occupational medicine, for the assessment of the working capacity of the employee, medical diagnosis, the provision of health care or treatment or the management of health care systems and services on the basis of Union or Member State law. This Regulation should provide conditions and safeguards for the processing of electronic health data by healthcare providers and health professionals in line with Article 9(2), point (h), of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 with the purpose of accessing personal electronic health data provided by the natural person or transmitted from other healthcare providers. However, this Regulation should be without prejudice to the national laws concerning the processing of health data, including the legislation establishing categories of health professionals that can process different categories of electronic health data.

(16) Timely and full access of health professionals to the medical records of patients is fundamental for ensuring continuity of care and avoiding duplications and errors. However, due to a lack of interoperability, in many cases, health professionals cannot access the complete medical records of their patients and cannot make optimal medical decisions for their diagnosis and treatment, which adds considerable costs for both health systems and natural persons and may lead to worse health outcomes for natural persons. Electronic health data made available in interoperable format, which can be transmitted between healthcare providers can also reduce the administrative burden on health professionals of manually entering or copying health data between electronic systems.

Therefore, health professionals should be provided with appropriate electronic means, such as health professional portals, to use personal electronic health data for the exercise of their duties. Moreover, the access to personal health records should be transparent to the natural persons and natural persons should be able to exercise full control over such access, including by limiting access to all or part of the personal electronic health data in their records. Health professionals should refrain from hindering the implementation of the rights of natural persons, such as refusing to take into account electronic health data originating from another Member State and provided in the interoperable and reliable European electronic health record exchange format.

(17) The relevance of different categories of electronic health data for different healthcare scenarios varies. Different categories have also achieved different levels of maturity in standardisation, and therefore the implementation of mechanisms for their exchange may be more or less complex depending on the category. Therefore, the improvement of interoperability and data sharing should be gradual and prioritisation of categories of electronic health data is needed. Categories of electronic health data such as patient summary, electronic prescription and dispensation, laboratory results and reports, hospital discharge reports, medical images and reports have been selected by the eHealth Network as most relevant for the majority of healthcare situations and should be considered as priority categories for Member States to implement access to them and their transmission. When further needs for the exchange of more categories of electronic health data are identified for healthcare purposes, the list of priority categories should be expanded.

The Commission should be empowered to extend the list of priority categories, after analysing relevant aspects related to the necessity and possibility for the exchange of new datasets, such as their support by systems established nationally or regionally by the Member States. Particular attention should be given to the data exchange in border regions of neighbouring Member States where the provision of cross-border health services is more frequent and needs even quicker procedures than across the Union in general.

(18) Access and sharing of electronic health data should be enabled for all the data that exist in the EHR of a natural person, when technically feasible. However, some electronic health data may not be structured or coded, and the transmission between healthcare providers may be limited or only possible in formats that do not allow for translation (when data is shared cross-borders). In order to provide enough time to prepare for implementation, dates of deferred application should be determined to allow for achieving legal, organisational, semantic and technical readiness for the transmission of different categories of electronic health data. When need for the exchange of new categories of electronic health data is identified, related dates of application should be determined in order to allow for the implementation of this exchange.

(19) The level of availability of personal health and genetic data in an electronic format varies between Member States. The EHDS should make it easier for natural persons to have those data available in electronic format. This would also contribute to the achievement of the target of 100% of Union citizens having access to their electronic health records by 2030, as referred to in the Policy Programme “Path to the Digital Decade”.

In order to make electronic health data accesible and transmissible, such data should be accessed and transmitted in an interoperable common European electronic health record exchange format, at least for certain categories of electronic health data, such as patient summaries, electronic prescriptions and dispensations, medical images and image reports, laboratory results and discharge reports, subject to transition periods. Where personal electronic health data is made available to a healthcare provider or a pharmacy by a natural person, or is transmitted by another data controller in the European electronic health record exchange format, the electronic health data should be read and accepted for the provision of healthcare or for dispensation of a medicinal product, thus supporting the provision of the health care services or the dispensation of the electronic prescription.

Commission Recommendation (EU) 2019/243 45 provides the foundations for such a common European electronic health record exchange format. The use of European electronic health record exchange format should become more generalised at EU and national level. While the eHealth Network under Article 14 of Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council 46 recommended Member States to use the European electronic health record exchange format in procurements, in order to improve interoperability, uptake was limited in practice, resulting in fragmented landscape and uneven access to and portability of electronic health data.

(20) While EHR systems are widely spread, the level of digitalisation of health data varies in Member States depending on data categories and on the coverage of healthcare providers that register health data in electronic format. In order to support the implementation of data subjects’ rights of access to and exchange of electronic health data, Union action is needed to avoid further fragmentation.

In order to contribute to a high quality and continuity of healthcare, certain categories of health data should be registered in electronic format systematically and according to specific data quality requirements. The European electronic health record exchange format should form the basis for specifications related to the registration and exchange of electronic health data. The Commission should be empowered to adopt implementing acts for determining additional aspects related to the registration of electronic health data, such as categories of healthcare providers that are to register health data electronically, categories of data to be registered electronically, or data quality requirements.