This report follows up on previous EPHA policy documents and articles on the topic of health data and personal data protection, taking into account the developments at European (EU) and national levels in the area of digital health.
The rapid development of digital technology has changed how data is collected, processed, stored, shared and disclosed. Today, individuals leave digital traces with every online activity, and innovative technology such as e- and mHealth, cloud computing and Big Data allow for the collection, storage and analysis of vast amounts of data. In our globalised world, digital data transfers have become routine; however, most individuals are not aware of the potential implications, both positive and negative, of exposing their personal data, and of the complexities that govern access to and ownership of data at different stages of the process.
In order to unlock the many potential benefits of digital technology for public health, it is essential to strike a balance which protects privacy and ensures trust. Personal health data play an invaluable role in enabling research undertaken to make epidemiological progress, combating rising health inequalities and protecting public health. Therefore, EPHA believes that a strong and coherent EU framework is needed for health and care in the Digital Single Market that weighs up individual and collective health needs.
The prerequisite for effective data use and analytics is the successful and inclusive integration of digital solutions into national healthcare, coupled with ensuring digital health literacy for all end users to facilitate their assigned roles and tasks, with new technology and better data as supporting tools for transforming health systems.