publication date: December 13, 2022
Undoubtedly, the need to exchange IT data has been increasing for several years. One of such areas is medicine, which has already become a relatively computerized field during the COVID 19 pandemic, e.g. obtaining a referral for vaccination in Poland consisted in issuing it in the Internet IT system, it could not be obtained in a traditional written form. This is a procedure that speeds up all medical procedures, which the European Union strives to achieve by creating and disseminating the MyHealth@EU program.
MyHealth@EU is a program that accelerates the exchange of health informatics data and can be defined as the European Health Digital Service Infrastructure. The most important assumption is that E-prescriptions and patient cards will be available in all EU countries by the end of 2025.
Personal data as the basis for action
The basis for the operation of the platform is personal data. Only their processing will allow
access to data for all healthcare workers. The patient should be informed about this and has the right to refuse consent. This is because, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (Journal of Laws of the European Union L.2016.119.1), i.e. commonly referred to as the GDPR, health data is data of special categories (sensitive) and it is forbidden to process it, unless the person has consented to it or, among others, the data is, generally speaking, used for medical purposes. It is worth noting that the use of data for medical purposes is allowed ex lege, however, the EU legislator emphasizes the consent of the person. This does not contradict the fact that in the event of a life-threatening situation, these data may be used without the patient’s consent, because, in accordance with the above, the Regulation allows for it.
One of the most important elements of the program are E-prescriptions. In the first place, the pharmacist’s duty, in the case of dispensing prescriptions, is to explain to the patient
on what basis his/her data is processed. It is worth noting that this explanation may be problematic, as it can be assumed that the pharmacist’s knowledge of data processing will be relatively low, which means that it will not be possible to provide detailed information.
Afterwards, the patient must prove his/her identity and the pharmacist, depending on the dispensing country, may be required to obtain the patient’s consent to the processing of the data. It is worth noting that the lack of consent is not inconsistent with the aforementioned Regulation, which to some extent results from the direct application of EU acts of this nature, i.e. the lack of obligations to implement them into the national order.
The next stage, completing the procedure, is dispensing the drug by the pharmacist.
Accordingly, another key element of MyHealth@EU is access to patient records. The procedure is very similar to the implementation of E-prescriptions, however, the doctor or other healthcare professional does not have automatic access to the patient’s card. After explaining the data processing process to the patient and potentially obtaining consent, the healthcare professional via the digital channel, i.e. MyHealth@EU, sends a request for access to the patient’s card. It is worth noting that the procedure can be time-consuming, and in the case of a life-threatening situation, it is crucial.
In the absence of access to the patient’s record, the patient can contact the national authority in order to obtain information on possible solutions.
The role of the program
Undoubtedly, the program will significantly facilitate broadly understood health care throughout the European Union. The smooth, cross-border data flow somehow harmonizes the community and makes the procedures similar to those undertaken at the national level, which, according to the aforementioned, is a great simplification. It is worth noting that E-prescriptions and patient cards will be available in the official language of a given country, which is another advantage of the programme, as well as potential, dependent on national law, consent to the processing of data in a given country of the community. It shows that the main objective of the Union is still the protection of personal data, even when its law provides for the possibility of not fulfilling this obligation. However, precisely in a life-threatening situation, access to the patient’s records, which is not obtained automatically, but after sending it on request from the country of origin, may be crucial, as it is a time-consuming procedure, which can undoubtedly be regarded as the biggest disadvantage. Of course, by definition, E-prescriptions will be used much more often, but patient records have an incomparably higher value.