“Estonia and Finland, as the first countries, will launch a service that allows buying prescription drugs in another country, ”said Riina Sikkut, Minister of Health and Labour. “Agreements between member states lead to real solutions that will enable health data to move along with the person and thereby enable to provide better medical care to millions of European people who travel, study or work in another European country. This is what Estonia stood for also during the Estonian EU Presidency.”
According to Riina Sikkut, the launch of a cross-border prescription is a historic milestone, but still only a first step on this long road. “In the next few years, we would also like to enable the transmission of other health data so that, in case of a health problem in a foreign country, the physician would also have access to a summary of the medical history for the provision of better quality treatment,” Sikkut added.
By now Estonia has developed a solution that allows Estonian pharmacists to query in their information system data of a digital prescription issued in another European country. In 2019, it is planned to create a possibility to buy prescription drugs with a digital prescription issued in Estonia abroad, in the first stage in Finland, Cyprus, Greece and Portugal.
Cross-border exchange of prescription data is part of a European project launched in 2017 aimed to ensure better quality medical care and access to medicines for people abroad. Thereby, people will continue to be able to decide about the movement of their health data between different countries.
The project foresees that by 2021, cross-border transmissions of both digital prescriptions and patient summaries will be made available through a data exchange platform managed by the European Commission. To date, a total of 23 countries have joined the project in Europe and are also planning to make the necessary developments over the next three years.
In Estonia, the cross-border prescription service has been developed by the Health and Well-being Information System Center (TEHIK) in cooperation with the State Agency of Medicines and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. According to Tõnis Jaagus, Head of e-services development, this is a complex project, because registers of medicines and prescriptions of different countries, as well as the rules and peculiarities of the pharmaceutical market had to be taken into account when building data exchange. “The countries participating in the project have now agreed on common rules, the system has been created and a unique transnational health data exchange service is open to people,” said Tõnis Jaagus.
So far, it has been possible to buy prescription medicines abroad using paper prescriptions. In Estonia, over 3,000 medicines are purchased annually based on a paper prescription issued in another EU country.
The project on cross-border exchange of health data is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility.