Europäisches Parlament

Exchange on health data use in the European Parliament

In mid-May, ELNET hosted a parliamentary exchange on health data use in the European Parliament in Brussels at the invitation of Lena Düpont MEP and Angelika Niebler MEP. Marlene Mortler MEP and Karolin Braunsberger-Reinhold MEP were joined by, among others, the Head of the Secretariat of the EU Data Protection Supervisor Leonardo Cervera-Navas, Dr. Yiannos Tolias, Legal Lead AI and AI Liability in Healthcare & EHDS Team of the European Commission, and Ehab Hino from the Mission of Israel to the European Union and NATO. They provided important impetus for regulating the use of health data in the context of the Regulation for a European Health Data Space (EHDS) and the EU Regulation on AI (EU AI Act).

In particular, the secondary use of health data for the development of innovative solutions to improve medical care was addressed. An important aspect here is above all the question of the use of health data for AI-based systems. Stefan Vilsmeier, CEO and founder of the Munich-based medical technology company Brainlab, stressed that Europe currently has a unique opportunity to become a pioneer in trustworthy AI. In order not to gamble with this and play into the hands of countries where health data is not handled as carefully as in Europe, it is important to design the legal framework carefully.

At the end of the event, all participants agreed that an exchange between a wide variety of stakeholders was indispensable for the design of a legal framework conducive to innovation. Ehab Hino gave an example of successful cooperation between politics, research, medicine, society and industry. In the context of the corona pandemic, Israeli population health data, which has been fully digitized for more than 20 years, helped in prevention, treatment, and especially vaccine development. He underlined how Israeli pragmatism led to quick action and how Europe could benefit from this experience. At the same time, he said, Israel is very much oriented toward EU regulation and welcomes this exchange. According to the survey conducted by ELNET Israel Survey 2023 European parliamentarians are also calling for closer cooperation with Israel in the field of research and health.

Conclusion: Trustworthy health data use in Europe must be tackled together – for progress instead of stagnation. To do this, it is important to think not only about one way to store and use health data, but to allow for different, co-existing systems that complement each other. Well-functioning, existing systems should coexist with the EHDS and complement each other. Health data protection is important, but it must not prevent innovation and thus the improvement of medical care. Regulation that weighs costs and benefits may be a possible answer here. Learning from the experiences of innovation drivers like Israel and incorporating them into the regulatory process can speed up the process.

Already within the scope of the EIPC 2023 In Paris in early May, Dr. Axelle Menu-Branthome of Health Data Hub France, Prof. Dr. Ran Balicer, CIO Clalit Health Services, and Stefan Vilsmeier concluded that Europe should seize its unique opportunity to become the innovation engine for AI in healthcare. The event at the European Parliament, moderated by Matthijs Schüssler, Executive Director ELNET EU & NATO, and Lea Ledwon, Program Manager GIHF-AI ELNET-Germany, reinforced this.