US and Europe push for patient record interoperability

The European Union and the Unites States will try to develop a common approach for the interoperability of electronic health records, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the two parties on Friday.

The European Union and the Unites States will try to develop a common approach for the interoperability of electronic health records, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the two parties on Friday.

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes and US secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius signed the document in Washington, calling not only for health records that can be used both in the EU and US, but also for education programmes for information technology and health professionals. They said the move would benefit companies seeking to expand the e-health sector, as well as patients.

"Nothing makes more of a difference to people's lives than good health," Kroes said in a statement. "I warmly welcome today's agreement. It is an excellent basis for the Commission and the US authorities to expand our cooperation on promoting the overall benefits of e-health for patients, health systems and companies."

According to the statement, the take-up of e-health records outside hospitals is four times bigger in the EU than in the US, where $20bn (£13bn) is due to be invested in deploying interoperable health records to physicians. Interoperability would help European companies push into that burgeoning market, the Commission said.