Game-changing initiative to boost eHealth Interoperability Conformity Assessment in Europe

Experts meet in Brussels to discuss an EU project aiming to promote the adoption and take-up of interoperability testing of eHealth solutions against existing industry standards and profiles.
By Anett Molnar
04:19 AM

Key European eHealth interoperability experts gathered in Brussels, Belgium, last week to discuss a multi-stakeholder initiative that could allow a one-time interoperability testing of eHealth products with mutual recognition across the EU and beyond.

New usages, new technologies, an ageing population and many other factors have contributed to a change in healthcare, leading to more connectivity between systems and an increasing need for interoperability.

Organised by the EURO-CAS project partners under the Horizon 2020 European research and innovation programme, including, among others, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Europe (IHE Europe), Agence eSanté Luxembourg, the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research (EIBIR) and Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance), attendees looked at the potential use and scale of introducing a Conformity Assessment Scheme for Europe (CASforEU) based on existing well-used norms and standards to overcome interoperability challenges in the healthcare sector.

Dr Ceri Thomson, Head of Policy Sector, eHealth, Well-Being and Ageing at DG Connect, European Commission, stressed the importance of breaking down data silos and estimated that CASforEU could contribute to the key pillars for the transformation of digital health and care. 

There are currently several examples of best practice of cross-border health information exchanges in the field of ePrescriptions and patient summaries that could be extended to other use cases, such as laboratory tests, images, discharge letters – but these are all subject to fundamental underpinning infrastructures being in place, Dr Thomson explained.

CASforEU governance. Source: EURO-CAS project

“Workshops in several Members States confirmed the need for pragmatic interoperability testing, and CASforEU as a solution," said Karima Bourquard, IHE-Europe Director of Interoperability.

Assessing conformance to a common set of standards is critical for the future. A scheme like CASforEU could avoid costly and time-consuming need for re-testing across different countries and regions, it was argued.

“The EURO-CAS Organization will drive CASforEU and be the place where procurers, vendors, users and all interested parties from all Europe can meet to ensure optimal applicability," added Samuel Danhardt, Interoperability Expert at Agence eSanté Luxembourg.

For more harmonisation, CASforEU will be aligned with other existing international schemes, such as IHE-CAS and PCHAlliance’s Continua Certification, relying on ISO/IEC 17025 accredited test laboratories for EU-wide recognition.

As discussed at the meeting, when put in practice, healthcare providers could procure CASforEU products or request testing before buying to ensure interoperability, and vendors would only need to do the CASforEU test once to access the Digital Single Market.

Anett Molnar is a Senior Manager, Public Policy and Engagement, for HIMSS EMEA.