EU report looks at uptake of EHRs, ePrescribing, and online access to health information

A new report from the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development looks at the state of health in the EU.
By Leontina Postelnicu
08:05 AM

The number of people seeking health information online across EU countries nearly doubled last year, compared to figures from 2008, according to research cited in a new report from the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Health at a Glance: Europe analysis, published in November, looks at the state of health of EU citizens and the performance of health systems in the 28 EU member states, along with five candidate countries and three from the European Free Trade Association.

Figures from an annual European Information and Communication Technologies survey mentioned in the report, including the responses from around 150,000 households and 200,000 individuals aged between 16-74, found that half of all EU residents sought health information online in 2017, with the number going up to around 70 per cent in the Netherlands and Finland.

But the 2016 version of the survey found that only 13 per cent of EU residents made a medical appointment online, although the number went up by five per cent compared to figures from 2012. Looking at individual countries, nearly half of all Danish residents reportedly made an appointment with a health care practitioner online in 2016.

Use of EHRs and ePrescribing 

The Commission and the OECD’s new report also shows that the use of electronic health records has been increasing across the EU.  A 2016 survey of OECD countries, which included 15 EU member states, revealed that all or nearly all primary care practices in Estonia, Finland, Greece and the UK had implemented such a system. The situation was different in Poland and Croatia, however, where it was reported to be “much more limited”.

Meanwhile, a 2018 survey from the Pharmaceutical Group of the EU found variation in the implementation of ePrescribing systems across EU countries. Although 90 per cent of prescriptions were transmitted to community pharmacies electronically in Denmark or Sweden, figures indicated that ePrescribing had not yet been implemented in Bulgaria, Malta or Poland. According to the Commission, these countries expressed an intention to implement ePrescribing at either regional or national levels during the coming years.

“Digital technology offers great opportunities to deliver health services more efficiently, and the European Commission supports a digital transformation of health systems to empower citizens to have access to their health data and to promote exchange of health data among health care providers across the EU,” the report reads.

"Every European citizen should have an electronic health record"

In a mid-term review on the implementation of the digital single market strategy, the Commission said it would take further action in three areas: ensuring citizens’ secure access to and sharing of health data beyond borders, connecting data to drive advancements in “research, disease prevention and personalised health care”, and empowering citizens to take control of their care through digital tools.

Until 20 December, the EU institution is accepting feedback on an initiative to create a recommendation for the establishment of a European EHR exchange format.

"Every European citizen should have an electronic health record - and this record should be easily exchangeable across Europe. We will soon publish a recommendation on how this should happen,” Roberto Viola, Director General of DG Connect, European Commission, recently said at the EU Health Summit.

Source: Health at a Glance: Europe report, published in November 2018.

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Contact the author: lpostelnicu@himss.org