Skip to content
Home » Impact of the European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format (EEHRxF) in the Healthcare Industry

Impact of the European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format (EEHRxF) in the Healthcare Industry

  • by

What is Interoperability?

Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems, devices, or applications to exchange and interpret data coherently and usefully. In the context of healthcare, interoperability means that various healthcare systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs), medical devices, and other health IT systems, can seamlessly share and use health information to support patient care, research, and public health initiatives.

The lack of full health data interoperability in Europe has major drawbacks. When health systems can’t easily share information, patient care suffers due to incomplete medical histories and more errors. Research and innovation slow down because scientists can’t access the data they need. Policymakers struggle to make good decisions without a complete picture of public health. Patients miss out on early diagnoses, clinical trials, and personalized treatments. Developing safer drugs is harder, and healthcare costs rise due to inefficiencies. Plus, inconsistent rules across Europe create confusion and hinder progress. Achieving full interoperability is crucial for better healthcare and innovation.

Why Do We Need Interoperability for Health Data?

Interoperability in healthcare means that different health systems can easily share and use patient information. Without interoperability, doctors might not have complete information, leading to poorer health outcomes and higher costs. Better interoperability means that healthcare providers can easily share patient data, both within their own country and across borders. This reduces the need to repeat tests unnecessarily and not only benefits patients by ensuring better care but also saves money for healthcare systems because they don’t have to spend on tests that have already been conducted. For example, by allowing healthcare providers to exchange data with payers, there is less paperwork, fewer errors, and less administrative overhead, resulting in significant cost savings. In addition, as interoperable systems contribute to early diagnosis, they help insurance companies reduce adverse event costs.

Healthcare professionals in the EU generate and use vital health data every second. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how important electronic health data is in fighting health emergencies and has also fostered the rapid development of many digital health solutions. Because of this, there’s been a big increase in using digital tools to collect and share health data. However, challenges remain in fully using digital health tools. The European Health Data Space (EHDS) aims to overcome these challenges by creating a framework for sharing health data. This framework includes defining clear rules, implementing common standards, building necessary infrastructure, and establishing governance protocols. By focusing on electronic health data, the EHDS aims to support patient care, enable research and innovation, inform policy-making, enhance patient safety, facilitate statistical analysis, and ensure regulatory compliance. The European Health Data Space (EHDS) will provide EU citizens with greater control over and access to their electronic health data, ensuring that they can reap the benefits promised by innovative digital health services and products through the use of their data.

On 21 May 2024, the high-level digital health interoperability workshop organised by DIGITALEUROPE focused on advancing health data interoperability by exploring how national health strategies align with industry solutions under the EHDS and EHRxF frameworks. It targeted industry players such as information & communication technologies, medical technologies, wellness applications, pharmaceuticals, regulators including national and regional health authorities, competence centres, as well as researchers and academics in health data interoperability.

The Industry Approach to Interoperability Challenges and Implementation of the EEHRxF

How is the Healthcare Industry Tackling Health Data Interoperability Challenges?

During the workshop, key industry players showcased their initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of interoperability in healthcare.

  • Leyr addresses the challenge of fragmented health records by acting as an intermediary, providing a single connection to access all electronic health records (EHRs) in the market, thereby simplifying the developer experience.
  • Individual healthcare systems often use their standards, making it hard to adopt global ones. EPIC addresses this by providing sandboxes for testing local interoperability solutions, paving the way for global standards.
  • Oracle is developing a cloud-based healthcare platform for secure application development, testing, and operation, ensuring data completeness and security while promoting open-source solutions to ensure secure data exchange.
  • Philips emphasises the need for standardization in communication among laboratories and medical devices and connectivity solutions by updating and expanding its library of medical device drivers, guaranteeing smooth connectivity and data exchange in medical settings.
  • Siemens supports collaboration and patient engagement, streamlines workflows, and ensures secure data access at the point of care.

What are the Benefits of EEHRxF Compliance by the Healthcare Industry?

Implementing EEHRxF (European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format) is highly beneficial for companies in several ways:

  • Streamlined Software Development: EEHRxF establishes a single global standard for electronic health records, simplifying the software development process. Companies no longer need to manage multiple standards, reducing complexity and development time.
  • Cost Reduction: Adopting EEHRxF as a unified standard reduces costs associated with maintaining diverse data formats and systems. This cost-effective approach allows companies to allocate resources more efficiently and focus on innovation rather than standardization.
  • Boost Data Exchange: EEHRxF leverages internet protocols for data exchange, ensuring a robust and scalable foundation. This openness facilitates seamless integration across different healthcare systems, improving interoperability and data accessibility.
  • Compliance and Legal Adherence: By building upon existing regulations and standards, EEHRxF facilitates smoother transitions for companies. It ensures compliance with legal requirements, mitigating risks associated with data privacy and security.
  • Promotion of Innovation: A unified market for electronic health records stimulates innovation within the industry. Companies can develop new technologies and products, such as AI-driven devices and personalized care solutions, that enhance patient outcomes and healthcare delivery.

What are the Challenges for the Healthcare Industry to Implement EEHRxF?

There is a vast sector of health data users, including the health ICT industry, medtech companies, strategy and consultancy organizations, and data analysts, all eager to integrate health data for various purposes. However, implementing the European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format (EEHRxF) in healthcare faces several significant challenges.

  • Technical Interoperability: This involves ensuring that different electronic health record systems can effectively communicate and share data. The diversity in technology and standards across healthcare settings complicates this interoperability, making it challenging to achieve seamless data exchange between systems.
  • System Engagement: Integrating EEHRxF with existing health IT infrastructure without disrupting workflows is essential. Healthcare providers must be able to access and utilize patient information efficiently, which requires careful planning and integration to avoid inefficiencies or interruptions in patient care.
  • Technical Complexity: Addressing these challenges often requires advanced technical expertise in software development, data management, and cybersecurity to ensure the secure and efficient exchange of sensitive health information.

Overcoming these challenges requires collaborative efforts among healthcare stakeholders, technological innovation, and adherence to interoperability standards to realize the benefits of a more connected and efficient healthcare system across Europe.

Achieving effective health data interoperability in Europe is crucial for advancing healthcare. The high-level digital health interoperability workshop organized by DIGITALEUROPE highlighted industry efforts to address these challenges head-on.

Key players such as Leyr, EPIC, Oracle, Philips, and Siemens showcased innovative solutions aimed at overcoming the fragmented nature of health records, standardizing communication among healthcare systems, and enhancing data security and accessibility. By promoting interoperability, these initiatives streamline workflows, reduce costs, and facilitate seamless data exchange across borders.

However, implementing EEHRxF poses significant challenges. Technical interoperability, system integration, and the complexity of EEHRxF systems require concerted efforts from healthcare stakeholders and technological experts. Overcoming these hurdles is crucial to realizing the full potential of interoperable health data, enabling better patient care, advancing medical research, and supporting public health initiatives across Europe.

Moving forward, continued collaboration, adherence to standards, and technological innovation will be essential in creating a cohesive European healthcare landscape where electronic health data can be securely and efficiently shared to benefit patients, healthcare providers, and society as a whole. The future of healthcare interoperability in Europe hinges on these efforts to build a unified, efficient, and patient-centric digital health ecosystem.

About the authors:

  • Alper Tanrıverdi: Alper is currently pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Program in Public Sector Innovation and eGovernance organized by KU Leuven, University of Munster, and Tallinn University of Technology. Before joining DIGITALEUROPE, Alper gained some professional experience at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, the Embassy in The Hague, and as a researcher at Koc University’s Computational Social Sciences Laboratory.
  • Ginevra Santini: Ginevra is the Communications Officer for Projects at DIGITALEUROPE. Ginevra has gained professional experience in EU public affairs consulting, where she has developed an understanding of European Union policies and regulations. This experience is complemented by her role as an assistant project manager in Brussels, where she has helped oversee various projects.
  • Nathan da Silva Carvalho: Nathan is the Senior Research and Innovation Manager for Projects at DIGITALEUROPE. Prior to joining DIGITALEUROPE, Nathan worked on many EU projects related to public sector innovation and digital government MSc. Nathan da Silva Carvalho specialises in digital transformation for the public and private sector. His work has been supported by the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI – OECD), the World Bank, the European Commission, Federal Public Service Policy & Support BOSA (Belgium), and many national governments worldwide.