Privacy fears hang over EU-wide patient data system

epSOS is an EU-funded pilot project which is to lay the groundwork for a union-wide system of easily exchangeable patient data, to be in place by 2015.

EUObserver.com writes about the privacy concerns surrounding epSOS project.

“A man from Italy enters a pharmacy in Athens, Greece, to get some medication. Only, he has no prescription. Oh no!

Fortunately, he has an e-prescription. A what? An e-prescription, an online prescription saved under his name on a server in Italy somewhere.

The pharmacist, with the consent of his client, retrieves the prescription over the Internet via so-called national contact points that convert the Italian drug to its Greek equivalent, and all ends well.

The scene is from a promotional video from epSOS.”

  • The benefits are obvious. Today, there are big differences across Europe in the kind of patient data collected and the way in which it is stored. In reality, the man from Italy would have had to visit a doctor in Athens first to get a Greek prescription.
  • But what about the drawbacks? Does an EU-wide system not pose an increased risk to privacy? “It depends,” says Giovanni Buttarelli, assistant European Data Protection Supervisor. It would if it meant the creation of one big central database of personal health records that reveal people’s entire medical history. That would be “simply a monster,” he says. It would be prone to security breaches. “Security is something you can look for, but not ensure.”
  • Better is to introduce access to data on a need-to-know basis – a general practitioner would not have the same access as, say, a neurosurgeon – and to spread out the data over a network of local repositories.
  • “The portability of health data is a necessity for the current world,” says Buttarelli. “You cannot simply say: Okay, let’s go back to paper.”

Read the whole story HERE.

 

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