Data spaces are integral to Europe’s data strategy, and they are especially vital in health care, where individuals’ privacy and security are equal priorities with the need to share information for research, preparedness, and response. In a major step forward, the European Commission and Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU are working together on a European health data space – an interoperable infrastructure that enables certified participants to securely exchange private health care data according to self-determined rules.

The partners anticipate fast progress, with a use case operating by next year.

Jens Spahn, Germany’s federal minister of health said, “Citizens in the EU should be in control of their health data, have trust in transparent and legally sound data processing and be empowered to share their data on a voluntary basis. By 2025 we want to have an interoperable data access infrastructure in place to facilitate secure cross-border analysis of health data.”

Stella Kyriakides, EU commissioner for health and food safety, said, “By 2025, patients from all member states should be able to share their data with healthcare professionals of their choice when traveling abroad.”

In addition to playing a critical role in improving health and healthcare, European health data spaces are part of the broad European data strategy—like other sectoral data spaces, they will foster growth and innovation in the healthcare industry in Europe.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said, “With the upcoming Data Governance Act, we will establish a horizontal framework for the use and reuse of sensitive and valuable data in areas such as health. This will facilitate the creation of sectoral European data spaces, including a common European Health Data Space.

Specific actions announced in the joint initiative were:

  • A dedicated legislative proposal
  • A Joint Action with 22 member states
  • Investment capabilities under EU4Health programs
  • The development of a Code of Conduct for secondary use of health data
  • A pilot project for cross-border analysis of data
  • Other EU funding opportunities