European Union flags fly outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

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BRUSSELS, May 3 (Reuters) – The European Commission wants to make health data easier to access for patients, doctors, regulators and researchers in a bid to improve diagnoses, cut unnecessary costs from duplication medical tests and boost medical research, an EU document says.

The document, seen by Reuters and to be published later on Tuesday, outlines the EU executive’s plans for a European health data space which Brussels says would lead to significant cost savings and economic gains of more than €10 billion. euros ($10.51 billion) in 10 years.

Patients in the EU spend €1.4 billion each year on unnecessary medical images alone, the document says, estimating that one in 10 X-rays or ultrasound tests is not necessary because it is usually duplicates of existing valid images.

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It is also estimated that the wider use of easily accessible electronic prescriptions will lead to significant cost savings by reducing errors in the dispensing of medications. Many states still use paper prescriptions.

The proliferation of unnecessary tests and prescribed drugs is mainly caused by problems of access to health data, because often health information is not accessible to patients themselves and hospitals only partially share data between them. .

“People can’t always easily access their health data electronically, and if they want to see doctors in more than one hospital or medical center, they often can’t share the data with other healthcare professionals. health,” the document reads.

The European Commission believes it could solve the problem by making data more accessible to patients through the creation of freely accessible online databases.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said easier access to health data would also greatly help patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer, by improving diagnoses.

Under this plan, healthcare providers would be required to produce interoperable electronic health data.

Data generated from patient health records and wellness apps would be aggregated into compatible formats and made accessible to patients, regulators and researchers under strict rules to protect privacy, the document says. Enhanced cybersecurity is also planned.

The Commission estimates that easier access to anonymised health records for analysts and data professionals could generate €5.4 billion in economic gains over a decade through more efficient research and cheaper medicines.

An additional €5.5 billion in gains would come from cost savings for patients and healthcare providers, and “faster growth in digital health and wellbeing app markets”.

($1 = 0.9519 euros)

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Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, editing by Ed Osmond

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