Ambitious plans to develop the e-health services to create an interoperable cross-European patient record summary and e-prescribing record were revealed yesterday as a Trojan horse to drive local interoperability, by one of the leaders of the project.

The Smart Open Source (SOS) project, which so far involves 12 European member states and 31 suppliers, is a complex European Commission project designed to create the services to support cross-border interoperable records across Europe.

SOS, details of which are still under wraps while negotiations continue, is the largest multi-national e-health project ever attempted in Europe.

The three year project is designed to create open source-based e-health services that can be used to create a pan-European patient record summary including e-prescribing and medication details. Once created benefits would include a patient from Sweden on holiday in Spain if prescribed a new drug would automatically have their family doctor notified.

However, speaking today at e-Health 2008 in Portoroz, Slovenia, one of the prime instigators of SOS said it was not quite what it seemed to be. The real objective was to use the work on developing the services required for cross-border interoperability to actually drive and catalyse far more local interoperability efforts within European regions and states.

Ilias Iakovidis, deputy head of the e-health unit at the European Commission, said “Although we talk about cross-border interoperability the ultimate goal in internal, local regional and national interoperability. That is the real purpose.”

He stressed that if member states are to crack the many problems of cross-border operability they will first need to address the issues of much more local interoperability. “They can’t do cross-national interoperability without doing internally.”

Iakovidis said the indirect route was a necessary approach as health was firmly a devolved member-state responsibility; whereas cross-border patient movement was a European Commission responsibility.

He said that the actual problem of patients from one country being treated in another was relatively trivial, affecting less that one per cent of patients. The goal was local healthcare supported by interoperable information systems. “As that is where 99% of care is delivered.”





Jon Hoeksma