Europeans to launch SOS
PORTOROZ, Slovenia – The European
Commission, as part of its Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, has
announced ambitious plans to develop an interoperable cross-European
patient record summary and e-prescribing record.
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.
The countries involved are: Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands,
Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Greece, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and
The contract is currently being negotiated and will be finalized before
the summer break. It is a three-year-project under Swedish leadership
with EC funding of EUR 8 million.
On an operational level, the project will be run by a management board
which consists of members of the ministries of health of the
contributing EU Member States. Industry is represented by an industry
consortium of 31 companies that will be responsible for the technical
side of the project.
In addition, the project will include a thematic network called
CALLIOPE, which aims to involve further players that cannot be
represented on the management board for logistical reasons. These are,
for instance, patient organisations, the professional bodies of doctors
and pharmacists, and standards organisations. This contract, too, will
be finalised before the summer break.
“The goal is to make national health-IT infrastructures in the different
EU Member States interoperable. We need access to medical information
all over Europe. It is a bottom-up approach, which means that we want to
take what is already there in the different EU Member States and
establish a level of interoperability on top of it,” said Gérard Comyn,
head of the European Commission’s ICT for health unit.
The three year SOS 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, for example, a patient from Sweden on holiday in Spain, if
prescribed a new drug, would automatically have their family doctor
However, with another point of view, one of the prime instigators of SOS
said the project 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 it 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 than one
percent of patients. The goal was local healthcare supported by
interoperable information systems. “As that is where 99% of care is