Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), Preamble 41 to 50

Preamble 41 to 50, Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), (Proposal_3.5.2022)

(41) The secondary use of health data under EHDS should enable the public, private, not for profit entities, as well as individual researchers to have access to health data for research, innovation, policy making, educational activities, patient safety, regulatory activities or personalised medicine, in line with the purposes set out in this Regulation. Access to data for secondary use should contribute to the general interest of the society. Activities for which access in the context of this Regulation is lawful may include using the electronic health data for tasks carried out by public bodies, such as exercise of public duty, including public health surveillance, planning and reporting duties, health policy making, ensuring patient safety, quality of care, and the sustainability of health care systems. Public bodies and Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies may require to have regular access to electronic health data for an extended period of time, including in order to fulfil their mandate, which is provided by this Regulation. Public sector bodies may carry out such research activities by using third parties, including sub-contractors, as long as the public sector body remain at all time the supervisor of these activities.

The provision of the data should also support activities related to scientific research (including private research), development and innovation, producing goods and services for the health or care sectors, such as innovation activities or training of AI algorithms that could protect the health or care of natural persons. In some cases, the information of some natural persons (such as genomic information of natural persons with a certain disease) could support the diagnosis or treatment of other natural persons. There is a need for public bodies to go beyond the emergency scope of Chapter V of Regulation […] [Data Act COM/2022/68 final]. However, the public sector bodies may request the support of health data access bodies for processing or linking data. This Regulation provides a channel for public sector bodies to obtain access to information that they require for fulfilling their tasks assigned to them by law, but does not extend the mandate of such public sector bodies. Any attempt to use the data for any measures detrimental to the natural person, to increase insurance premiums, to advertise products or treatments, or develop harmful products should be prohibited.

(42) The establishment of one or more health data access bodies, supporting access to electronic health data in Member States, is an essential component for promoting the secondary use of health-related data. Member States should therefore establish one or more health data access body, for instance to reflect their constitutional, organisational and administrative structure. However, one of these health data access bodies should be designated as a coordinator in case there are more than one data access body. Where a Member State establishes several bodies, it should lay down rules at national level to ensure the coordinated participation of those bodies in the EHDS Board.

That Member State should in particular designate one health data access body to function as a single contact point for the effective participation of those bodies, and ensure swift and smooth cooperation with other health data access bodies, the EHDS Board and the Commission. Health data access bodies may vary in terms of organisation and size (spanning from a dedicated full-fledged organization to a unit or department in an existing organization) but should have the same functions, responsibilities and capabilities. Health data access bodies should not be influenced in their decisions on access to electronic data for secondary use. However, their independence should not mean that the health data access body cannot be subject to control or monitoring mechanisms regarding its financial expenditure or to judicial review. Each health data access body should be provided with the financial and human resources, premises and infrastructure necessary for the effective performance of its tasks, including those related to cooperation with other health data access bodies throughout the Union.

Each health data access body should have a separate, public annual budget, which may be part of the overall state or national budget. In order to enable better access to health data and complementing Article 7(3) of Regulation […] of the European Parliament and of the Council [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final], Member States should entrust health data access bodies with powers to take decisions on access to and secondary use of health data. This could consist in allocating new tasks to the competent bodies designated by Member States under Article 7(1) of Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final] or in designating existing or new sectoral bodies responsible for such tasks in relation to access to health data.

(43) The health data access bodies should monitor the application of Chapter IV of this Regulation and contribute to its consistent application throughout the Union. For that purpose, the health data access bodies should cooperate with each other and with the Commission, without the need for any agreement between Member States on the provision of mutual assistance or on such cooperation. The health data access bodies should also cooperate with stakeholders, including patient organisations. Since the secondary use of health data involves the processing of personal data concerning health, the relevant provisions of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 apply and the supervisory authorities under Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 should be tasked with enforcing these rules. Moreover, given that health data are sensitive data and in a duty of loyal cooperation, the health data access bodies should inform the data protection authorities of any issues related to the data processing for secondary use, including penalties.

In addition to the tasks necessary to ensure effective secondary use of health data, the health data access body should strive to expand the availability of additional health datasets, support the development of AI in health and promote the development of common standards. They should apply tested techniques that ensure electronic health data is processed in a manner that preserves the privacy of the information contained in the data for which secondary use is allowed, including techniques for pseudonymisation, anonymisation, generalisation, suppression and randomisation of personal data. Health data access bodies can prepare datasets to the data user requirement linked to the issued data permit. This includes rules for anonymization of microdata sets.

(44) Considering the administrative burden for health data access bodies to inform the natural persons whose data are used in data projects within a secure processing environment, the exceptions provided for in Article 14(5) of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 should apply. Therefore, health data access bodies should provide general information concerning the conditions for the secondary use of their health data containing the information items listed in Article 14(1) and, where necessary to ensure fair and transparent processing, Article 14(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, e.g. information on the purpose and the data categories processed.

Exceptions from this rule should be made when the results of the research could assist in the treatment of the natural person concerned. In this case, the data user should inform the health data access body, which should inform the data subject or his health professional. Natural persons should be able to access the results of different research projects on the website of the health data access body, ideally in an easily searchable manner. The list of the data permits should also be made public. In order to promote transparency in their operation, each health data access body should publish an annual activity report providing an overview of its activities.

(45) Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final] sets out the general rules for the management of data altruism. At the same time, given that the health sector manages sensitive data, additional criteria should be established through the rulebook foreseen in Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final]. Where such a rulebook foresees the use of a secure processing environment for this sector, this should comply with the criteria established in this Regulation. The health data access bodies should cooperate with the bodies designated under Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final] to supervise the activity of data altruism organisations in the health or care sector.

(46) In order to support the secondary use of electronic health data, the data holders should refrain from withholding the data, requesting unjustified fees that are not transparent nor proportionate with the costs for making data available (and, where relevant, with marginal costs for data collection), requesting the data users to co-publish the research or other practices that could dissuade the data users from requesting the data. Where ethical approval is necessary for providing a data permit, its evaluation should be based on its own merits. On the other hand, Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, including EMA, ECDC and the Commission, have very important and insightful data. Access to data of such institutions, bodies, offices and agencies should be granted through the health data access body where the controller is located.

(47) Health data access bodies and single data holders should be allowed to charge fees based on the provisions of Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final] in relation to their tasks. Such fees may take into account the situation and interest of SMEs, individual researchers or public bodies. Data holders should be allowed to also charge fees for making data available. Such fees should reflect the costs for providing such services. Private data holders may also charge fees for the collection of data. In order to ensure a harmonised approach concerning fee policies and structure, the Commission may adopt implementing acts. Provisions in Article 10 of the Regulation [Data Act COM/2022/68 final] should apply for fees charged under this Regulation.

(48) In order to strengthen the enforcement of the rules on the secondary use of electronic health data, appropriate measures that can lead to penalties or temporary or definitive exclusions from the EHDS framework of the data users or data holders that do not comply with their obligations. The health data access body should be empowered to verify compliance and give data users and holders the opportunity to reply to any findings and to remedy any infringement. The imposition of penalties should be subject to appropriate procedural safeguards in accordance with the general principles of law of the relevant Member State, including effective judicial protection and due process.

(49) Given the sensitivity of electronic health data, it is necessary to reduce risks on the privacy of natural persons by applying the data minimisation principle as set out in Article 5 (1), point (c) of Regulation (EU) 2016/679. Therefore, the use of anonymised electronic health data which is devoid of any personal data should be made available when possible and if the data user asks it. If the data user needs to use personal electronic health data, it should clearly indicate in its request the justification for the use of this type of data for the planned data processing activity.

The personal electronic health data should only be made available in pseudonymised format and the encryption key can only be held by the health data access body. Data users should not attempt to re-identify natural persons from the dataset provided under this Regulation, subject to administrative or possible criminal penalties, where the national laws foresee this. However, this should not prevent, in cases where the results of a project carried out based on a data permit has a health benefit or impact to a concerned natural person (for instance, discovering treatments or risk factors to develop a certain disease), the data users would inform the health data access body, which in turn would inform the concerned natural person(s). Moreover, the applicant can request the health data access bodies to provide the answer to a data request, including in statistical form. In this case, the data users would not process health data and the health data access body would remain sole controller for the data necessary to provide the answer to the data request.

(50) In order to ensure that all health data access bodies issue permits in a similar way, it is necessary to establish a standard common process for the issuance of data permits, with similar requests in different Member States. The applicant should provide health data access bodies with several information elements that would help the body evaluate the request and decide if the applicant may receive a data permit for secondary use of data, also ensuring coherence between different health data access bodies.

Such information include: the legal basis under Regulation (EU) 2016/679 to request access to data (exercise of a task in the public interest assigned by law or legitimate interest), purposes for which the data would be used, description of the needed data and possible data sources, a description of the tools needed to process the data, as well as characteristics of the secure environment that are needed. Where data is requested in pseudonymised format, the data applicant should explain why this is necessary and why anonymous data would not suffice. An ethical assessment may be requested based on national law. The health data access bodies and, where relevant data holders, should assist data users in the selection of the suitable datasets or data sources for the intended purpose of secondary use. Where the applicant needs anonymised statistical data, it should submit a data request application, requiring the health data access body to provide directly the result. In order to ensure a harmonised approach between health data access bodies, the Commission should support the harmonisation of data application, as well as data request.