In Europe, the necessity of data management has become strong across various industry verticals – banking and finance, transportation, defence & security, communication, manufacturing, retail, and so on. Healthcare is no exception to this phenomenon. Competitiveness of economies and data security measures may hinder international cooperation towards an open platform for data transparency, in case of non-healthcare industries. However, healthcare is decidedly an exception to this phenomenon, as the value of human lives transcends the manmade constructs of governance and competence.

Some of the major roadblocks ahead of reaping the state-of-the-art of eHealth benefits are all linked to patients’ data. It is no exaggeration to advocate the necessity of a dedicated data governance agency at national and international levels in Europe, given the magnitude of the implications. Needless to say, management of data and information is the need of the hour, so governance is imperative sooner than later.

As a step towards an international alliance for exchanging healthcare data in Europe, it is important to win the trust and willingness to share data received from patients and national governmental pillars. When ratified with a well thought out strategic action plan and governance structure with a clear vision, addressing near, medium, and long term milestones, countries can reap better synergy out of big data.

A few factors to be taken into consideration for such a framework are detailed below.

Figure 1: Framework recommended for efficient healthcare data management in Europe

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Extracting Benefits from Data for Public Health

Anonymized data gathered into a common pool for advanced analytics: risk of specific diseases among current population through non-hereditary means, incidence of contagious diseases among immigrants and tourists and so on could all be analysed and shared across countries, considering travel bans into and out of various countries which could be epicentres of epidemics.

Comprehensive Data Collection

Barriers of illiteracy and lack of access to state-of-the-art digital communication media dark villages are to be overcome to ensure standardized depth and breadth of collection of public health data. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)-led phone-based data collection by a national agency could be a viable solution where physical or online reach could be challenging.

Data Privacy and Security

Patient data are private property. Ensuring anonymity is only one of the preliminary steps in the never-ending journey towards keeping data safe. Hence, investing in best-in-class data security systems is essential to ensure protection against vulnerability of data exposure to unauthorized users. Instead, a standardized non-sensitive dataset could be released for access by all interested parties in the consortium.

Arriving at Actionable Insights from Valuable Data

Culling out specific data to support critical policy decisions is one of the key benefits of amassing granular data over a period of time. Great governance comes from great policies and leadership. Data, although not a replacement, are a vital supplement to robust decision support behind path-breaking policies.

Striving for New Global Benchmarks and Best Practices

Best-in-class is a subject to change in a world of continuous improvement. Competition among healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and other important pillars in the healthcare space will keep refining and redefining metrics, processes, and targets.

Public health in Europe needs to transcend geographic (national and international) boundaries and political frontiers to pave way for Population Health Management, in the coming years. If diseases can spread across the world, so should healthcare. Data Exchange is only the first, yet crucial, step in that journey.

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