Sharing experience in cross-country health data interoperability and exchange

It has only been four months since the beginning of the project, and UNICOM is already considered a key player also in the Digital Health (sematic) interoperability domain. In an extensive online meeting on 17 March 2020, the scientific coordinator of UNICOM, Dr. Karl A. Stroetmann, shared the openMedicine experience as well as the UNICOM vision and initial insights with another European Digital Health initiative – the InfAct project. That project’s interoperability experts had asked Dr. Stroetmann for an extensive in-depth interview and knowledge exchange.

The InfAct (Information for Action!) project is a European Joint Action dealing with cross-country health data sharing, particularly in the Public Health domain. It is supported by the EU Public Health Programme, which has been implemented and managed by the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency of the European Commission. InfAct involves 40 partners in 28 European countries. It builds on the “BRidging Information and Data Generation for Evidence-based Health policy and research” (BRIDGE) project. Its aim was to prepare the transition towards a sustainable and integrated EU health information system for both public health and research purposes. This project was launched in May 2015 and ran for 30 months.

To gain more experience and insights towards establishing a holistic European health data model and infrastructure that is able to translate health data, information and knowledge into support for policymaking using services based on data linkage, data sharing, data management and knowledge development, InfAct decided to obtain expert opinion from the UNICOM project. InfAct believes that UNICOM work relates directly to their current work on cross-border health data sharing, linking and management, particularly with respect to Digital Health interoperability.

During the interview, UNICOM colleagues underlined the importance of a holistic interoperability concept as adopted by this Innovation Action. Driven by the health data area (in UNICOM the univocal identification of medicines) for which interoperability requirements must be defined by health policy makers and actors, challenges arise in the “Governance & Legal” and the “Organisational” domains, to be complemented by issues in both the “Data Modelling, Format & Coding” and the “Data Sharing” domains.

UNICOM highly appreciates the collaborative spirit across European projects in this field as underlined by this event. It would like to point out that only by means of close interaction and mutual assistance projects aiming at Europe’s digital transition towards a European Digital Health Domain can shape Europe’s digital future in the health care sector.