On the 3rd of May this year, the European Commission unveiled their proposal for a regulation to establish the European Health Data Space ("EHDS"). The EHDS is a "health specific ecosystem comprised of rules, common standards and practices, infrastructures and governance framework". It aims to achieve a number of different goals. Most importantly are the empowering of individuals' access to and control of their personal health data, and providing European researchers, health officials and industry with a simple system to obtain and analyze citizens' health data from the entire European Union.
For European patients, the regulation seeks to enable them to have easy access to their data across the entire Union, regardless of which country they are geographically located. The principal function is to allow, if consent is given or an emergency requires it, a medical practitioner in another country to access medical records and other information, so that they can provide the appropriate assistance. This is so-called "primary" use of the health data. Simple access will increasingly facilitate a patient's free movement across the European Union as well as to help foster a genuine single market for electronic health record systems. The EHDS will seek to fulfil these goals through the establishment of a common framework of data sharing through integrated databases filled with personal health information presented using a standardized format.
The standardization and availability of health data is also of significance to another of the mentioned fundamental goals, referred to as the "secondary" use of data. Basically, the plan is to gather, sort and anonymize all the health data of citizens of the European Union and make it available to scientists and innovators. This will increase the available data pool significantly. The objective is to strengthen European health research, innovation, policy-making and regulatory activities. Access to an increased data pool is likely to, for example, increase the magnitude of technological innovation, ensure better public policies to improve European citizens' health, and enhance government and health officials' ability to prevent and combat future pandemics.