Guest article by Diogo Teixeira Pereira, Policy Assistant, European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP)
Access to modern digital health infrastructure is essential for improving the way health care is delivered to patients across the EU. Hospital pharmacists as health professionals are a cornerstone of healthcare systems, dealing daily with patients’ health data. These professionals will play a pivotal role in the European Health Data Space (EHDS) which has the potential to facilitate their work and provide patients with better health outcomes.
A standardised systematic and EU-wide achievement of electronic prescribing, administration and use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) supported by traceability will help improve patient outcomes and facilitate the work of hospital pharmacists. However, to achieve this also investments into adequate infrastructure are needed as well as into interoperability of digital health systems that differ considerably between Member States and even between healthcare institutions located in one country. EAHP calls on the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that the implementation of the EHDS goes hand in hand with the deployment of uniform interoperability standards that follow the principles of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Europe.
Access to and exchange of health data for scientific R&D, policy-making and regulatory activities remain very limited in Europe. EAHP underlines that all data should be protected and its handling must be transparent to all involved. More clarity is needed on the purposes for which electronic health data can be processed for secondary use. Regarding personalised healthcare, the data privacy of the data subjects must be safeguarded, so that specific treatment details cannot be traced back to an individual patient. Strong safeguards should be in place to guarantee that patient data is not misused for the commercialisation of medicinal products and devices nor that patients are discriminated against based on their health data. Anonymising data available for secondary use will require additional resources for healthcare systems. EAHP asks the European Commission and the National Competent Authorities to appropriately address this additional burden for healthcare professionals, through adequate funding. Hospital pharmacists need also to be well-trained for carrying out these types of activities related to the secondary use of clinical data for R&D.
Hospital pharmacists need to have appropriate training opportunities on how to use and add valuable inputs for the digital infrastructure in general, and the one that EHDS foresees in particular. EAHP urges the European Commission, National Competent Authorities, and Schools of Pharmacy to promote digital health and data literacy skills in the formation of hospital pharmacists and to include it in continuous professional education.
For healthcare electronic services to be safe and effective and to add genuine value to the system, EAHP highlights the development of these electronic services in collaboration with healthcare professionals. As stated in the European Statement of Hospital Pharmacy 1.7., pharmacy services should be integrated within the general ICT framework of the hospital including electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) procedures. In these endeavours, hospital pharmacists actively cooperate with digital health authorities, with adequate opportunity to provide input for the preparation of the annual activity reports.
Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA.