The European Commission's notion of eHealth interoperability is two-fold. In addition to the technical definition of the term that relates to connecting systems and exchanging information, it also seeks to recognise the concept of connecting people, data, and diverse health systems, while taking into account the relevant social, political, regulatory, business, industry and organisational factors.
The EU's e-Health action plan (2004) defines the block's priorities on the field until 2010. One of them is the development of interoperable health care systems across the European Union. In June 2006, the Commission's ICT for Health Unit adopted a new strategy to promote the transformation of the European health care landscape, in line with the Commission's new policy framework i2010. The Unit is currently in the process of drafting guidelines for good practice on eHealth interoperability.
The Commission adopted on 16 July 2007 its Draft Recommendation on eHealth Interoperability and submitted it to informal public consultation. The final Recommendation is expected to be adopted later in 2007 and is set to contribute to the achievement of "a European health information space" by the end of the year 2015.
The draft outlines a set of recommended guidelines for good practice on eHealth interoperability and proposes a number of actions addressed to member states, industries and associations that work in the eHealth field. According to the Commission, the Recommendation has relevance also for the European Economic Area (EEA) countries.
The draft proposes the following actions:
- at political and legal level, such as building a political platform to set up the necessary legal and regulatory environment for eHealth interoperability. This could involve more effective co-ordination and harmonisation of national legislations and would address a number of initiatives in relation to privacy and confidentiality issues;
- on creating the organisational framework or process and interfaces, in and through which national eHealth infrastructures and services can interact;
- on applications - to agree, for example, on standards for semantic interoperability;
- on architectural and technical interoperability - to establish common communication platforms, which, for example, would address security-related issues and agree on a single certification and accreditation process, and;
- on monitoring and evaluation.