Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), Preamble 51 to 60

Preamble 51 to 60, Articles of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), (Proposal_3.5.2022)

(51) As the resources of health data access bodies are limited, they can apply prioritisation rules, for instance prioritising public institutions before private entities, but they should not make any discrimination between the national or from organisations from other Member States within the same category of priorities. The data user should be able to extend the duration of the data permit in order, for example, to allow access to the datasets to reviewers of scientific publication or to enable additional analysis of the dataset based on the initial findings. This would require an amendment of the data permit and may be subject to an additonal fee. However, in all the cases, the data permit should reflect theses additionals uses of the dataset. Preferably, the data user should mention them in their initial request for the issuance of the data permit. In order to ensure a harmonised approach between health data access bodies, the Commission should support the harmonisation of data permit.

(52) As the COVID-19 crisis has shown, the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, especially the Commission, need access to health data for a longer period and on a recurring basis. This is may be the case not only in specific circumstances in times of crisis but also to provide scientific evidence and technical support for Union policies on a regular basis. Access to such data may be required in specific Member States or throughout the whole territory of the Union.

(53) For requests to access electronic health data from a single data holder in a single Member State and in order to alieviate the administrative burden for heath data access bodies of managing such request, the data user should be able to request this data directly from the data holder and the data holder should be able to issue a data permit while complying with all the requirements and safeguards linked to such request and permit. Multi-country requests and requests requiring combination of datasets from several data holders should always be channelled through health data access bodies. The data holder should report to the health data access bodies about any data permits or data requests they provide.

(54) Given the sensitivity of electronic health data, data users should not have an unrestricted access to such data. All secondary use access to the requested electronic health data should be done through a secure processing environment. In order to ensure strong technical and security safeguards for the electronic health data, the health data access body or, where relevant, single data holder should provide access to such data in a secure processing environment, complying with the high technical and security standards set out pursuant to this Regulation. Some Member States took measures to locate such secure environments in Europe. The processing of personal data in such a secure environment should comply with Regulation (EU) 2016/679, including, where the secure environment is managed by a third party, the requirements of Article 28 and, where applicable, Chapter V.

Such secure processing environment should reduce the privacy risks related to such processing activities and prevent the electronic health data from being transmitted directly to the data users. The health data access body or the data holder providing this service should remain at all time in control of the access to the electronic health data with access granted to the data users determined by the conditions of the issued data permit. Only non-personal electronic health data which do not contain any electronic health data should be extracted by the data users from such secure processing environment. Thus, it is an essential safeguard to preserve the rights and freedoms of natural persons in relation to the processing of their electronic health data for secondary use. The Commission should assist the Member State in developing common security standards in order to promote the security and interoperability of the various secure environments.

(55) For the processing of electronic health data in the scope of a granted permit, the health data access bodies and the data users should be joint controllers in the sense of Article 26 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, meaning that the obligations of joint controllers under that Regulation will apply. To support health data access bodies and data users, the Commission should, by means of an implementing act, provide a template for the joint controller arrangements health data access bodies and data users will have to enter into.

In order to achieve an inclusive and sustainable framework for multi-country secondary use of electronic health data, a cross-border infrastructure should be established. HealthData@EU should accelerate the secondary use of electronic health data while increasing legal certainty, respecting the privacy of natural persons and being interoperable. Due to the sensitivity of health data, principles such as “privacy by design” and “bring questions to data instead of moving data” should be respected whenever possible. Authorised participants in HealthData@EU could be health data access bodies, research infrastructures established as an European Research Infrastructure Consortium (‘ERIC’) under Council Regulation (EC) No 723/2009 50 or similar structures established under another Union legislation, as well as other types of entities, including infrastructures under the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), infrastructures federated under the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

Other authorised participants should obtain the approval of the joint controllership group for joining HealthData@EU. On the other hand, HealthData@EU should enable the secondary use of different categories of electronic health data, including linking of the health data with data from other data spaces such as environment, agriculture, social etc. The Commission could provide a number of services within HealthData@EU, including supporting the exchange of information amongst health data access bodies and authorised participants for the handling of cross-border access requests, maintaining catalogues of electronic health data available through the infrastructure, network discoverability and metadata queries, connectivity and compliance services.

The Commission may also set up a secure environment, allowing data from different national infrastructures to be transmitted and analysed, at the request of the controllers. The Commission digital strategy promote the linking of the various common European data spaces. For the health sector, interoperability with the sectors such as the environmental, social, agricultural sectors may be relevant for additional insights on health determinants. For the sake of IT efficiency, rationalisation and interoperability of data exchanges, existing systems for data sharing should be reused as much as possible, like those being built for the exchange of evidences under the once only technical system of Regulation (EU) 2018/1724 of the European Parliament and of the Council 51.

(56) In case of cross-border registries or databases, such as the registries of European Reference Networks for Rare Diseases, which receive data from different healthcare providers in several Member States, the health data access body where the coordinator of the registry is located should be responsible for providing access to data.

(57) The authorisation process to gain access to personal health data in different Member States can be repetitive and cumbersome for data users. Whenever possible, synergies should be established to reduce the burden and barriers for data users. One way to achieve this aim is to adhere to the “single application” principle whereby, with one application, the data user obtain authorisation from multiple health data access bodies in different Member States.

(58) The health data access bodies should provide information about the available datasets and their characteristics so that data users can be informed of elementary facts about the dataset and assess their possible relevance to them. For this reason, each dataset should include, at least, information concerning the source, nature of data and conditions for making data available. Therefore, an EU datasets catalogue should be established to facilitate the discoverability of datasets available in the EHDS; to help data holders to publish their datasets; to provide all stakeholders, including the general public, also taking into account people with disabilities, with information about datasets placed on the EHDS (such as quality and utility labels, dataset information sheets); to provide the data users with up-to-date data quality and utility information about datasets.

(59) Information on the quality and utility of datasets increases the value of outcomes from data intensive research and innovation significantly, while, at the same time, promoting evidence-based regulatory and policy decision-making. Improving the quality and utility of datasets through informed customer choice and harmonising related requirements at Union level, taking into account existing Union and international standards, guidelines, recommendations for data collection and data exchange (i.e. FAIR principles: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), benefits also data holders, health professionals, natural persons and the Union economy overall. A data quality and utility label for datasets would inform data users about the quality and utility characteristics of a dataset and enable them to choose the datasets that best fit their needs.

The data quality and utility label should not prevent datasets from being made available through the EHDS, but provide a transparency mechanism between data holders and data users. For example, a dataset that does not fulfil any requirement of data quality and utility should be labelled with the class representing the poorest quality and utility, but should still be made available. Expectations set in frameworks described in Article 10 of Regulation […] [AI Act COM/2021/206 final] and its relevant documentation specified in Annex IV should be taken into account when developing the data quality and utility framework. Member States should raise awareness about the data quality and utility label through communication activities. The Commission could support these activities.

(60) The EU datasets catalogue should minimise the administrative burden for the data holders and other database users; be user-friendly, accessible and cost-effective, connect national data catalogues and avoid redundant registration of datasets. The EU datasets catalogue could be aligned with the initiative and without prejudice to the requirements set out in the Regulation […] [Data Governance Act COM/2020/767 final]. Member states should ensure that national data catalogues are interoperable with existing dataset catalogues from European research infrastructures and other relevant data sharing infrastructures.