Estonia and Finland to start sharing medical data

Based on the joint declaration signed by the Estonian and Finnish Prime Ministers on 10 May 2016, patient data exchange and e-services between both countries are about to significantly intensify over the next years. Starting with a data exchange system for digital prescriptions in 2017-2018, full patient medical history will become available cross-border in 2019-2020 according to the roadmap agreed on by both countries.

These measures will lead to higher-quality healthcare in both countries, as doctors and patients have access to all relevant medical data irrespective of their location. Thus, as people travel for business and leisure between both countries, their data will “move” with them, ensuring that in case of need, any diagnosis or prescription is taking into account their full medical history. In line with the once-only principle (OOP), citizen do not have to provide their dater to the healthcare system multiple times, but only once.

The joint data exchange is technologically and financially efficient, it is based on the Estonian X-Road and the Finnish Palveluväylä systems, which are already in place and have been reliably used for years. Some obstacles to the joint data exchange remain however, but they are mostly of an administrative and legal nature, as well as taking into account the relevant European standards and solutions, and can be therefore overcome more easily.

The benefits of the bilateral data exchange are expected to facilitate additional interactions of people and businesses between Estonia and Finland, reduce the administrative burden on citizens of both countries, and to cut operational costs within the respective public administrations. Moreover, the cross-border exchange of medical data promises improvements in treatments of rare and little understood diseases.

As with any implementation of the once-only principle, privacy is a key concern, which has been fully taken into account by Estonia and Finland, as explained by the Deputy Secretary General on E-services Development and Innovation in Estonia, Ain Aaviksoo:

“Ensuring privacy and security starts with giving people real control over their healthcare data. Actually, this could be made to suit any country’s combination of law, information technology, and information management applications.”

The cooperation between Estonia and Finland on prescription and patient data exchange as well as e-health more broadly is an important stepping stone on the road to data interoperability in other areas, for instance in the fields of commercial and population registers, social benefit data, tax data, educational qualifications, and maritime affairs. Similar to prescription and patient data, concrete action plans for these fields are currently being elaborated by both countries.

Further information: