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S&Ds: As healthcare goes digital, it’s vital to protect patient data privacy


04 May 2022


Health & Consumers

The European Commission’s proposal to create the European Health Data Space to further facilitate the digitalisation of healthcare across Europe is a crucial step in the efforts to overcome the health challenges of our time. For example, it will ensure better access to specialist care and quicker help in case of an accident while abroad, underlined the S&Ds in their first reaction to the plan presented today.                                                                                                                           

The proposed legislation aims to help patients by granting them easier access to and more control over their health data, but also facilitates the secondary use of data, such as for research. However, it is vital to protect data privacy, highlighted the Socialists and Democrats. The group will now thoroughly examine whether the Commission’s proposal meets all data protection requirements.

Heléne Fritzon MEP, S&D vice-president responsible for health, said:

“The proposed Common Health Data Space is a very important step towards a European Health Union. The S&Ds have constantly called for the equitable access to healthcare for everyone in the European Union. This new tool will for example facilitate access to specialist care that might not be easily available in all member states.                                                                                                                                   

“Over the past decades we have seen how important eHealth has become in the efforts to increase the access to healthcare, for example with electronic prescriptions and electronic health records. Now we need to use the full potential of these tools to ensure better healthcare for all. However, we need to remain vigilant and ensure data protection as well.”

Tiemo Wölken MEP, S&D coordinator on health issues, said:

“Today, the Commission presented a crucial, forward-looking proposal. We will only be able to overcome major health challenges of our time together - viruses as well as other diseases and health threats do not stop at national borders. The new proposal puts the exchange of data for patient care, as well as for research and development purposes in Europe, on a new footing.

“For patients, this means direct control over their digital health data and a possibility to share it with physicians throughout the European Union. For example, it will be easier to get help quickly in the event of an accident while on vacation.

“Moreover, better data collection and exchange practices bring an enormous potential for the research and development of new drugs and therapies, especially for rare diseases for which there is often not enough data available in individual member states.

“As healthcare goes digital, data protection and data security are of paramount importance. Patients must be able to fully trust the digital exchange of data and highly sensitive personal health data must not end up in the wrong hands. Over the coming weeks, we will examine whether the Commission's proposal meets these high requirements.”