Society needs to scale up a collective capability to learn at scale from health data, to improve health care and to accelerate research. Despite increasing volumes of health data being collected in digital form there are many barriers to widening the uses of it. Many of the barriers are well recognised, but they now need multiple stakeholders to work in a cohesive way to identify the best solutions and then to take actions that mitigate the barriers and enable better data use.
In 2020 the Digital Health Society (DHS) partnered with the European Institute for Innovation through Health Data (i~HD) to create a series of multi-stakeholder Round Tables to examine these challenges and opportunities of health data, and to propose practical approaches and calls to action that could grow and accelerate health data use. Each Round Table had about 40 participants from Europe including international institutions, national governments, industry, academia, hospitals, healthcare professionals, regulators and patient representatives.
As at the end of 2021 we have convened 4 Round Tables each with three Working Groups tackling separate topics and at the conclusion of the Round Tables we published written recommendations and reports.
The Round Tables summarised here were held during a period when the European Commission had announced plans to establish a European Health Data Space (EHDS), and was seeking inputs from European stakeholders on challenges it may face and approaches it may consider adopting. These recommendations and reports are highly relevant for the proposed EHDS and were intended to assist its design, governance model, development and future implementation.
The Round Tables covered the following topics:
Round Table 1
Acceptance criteria for societal trust in the use of health data
Even when data users fully comply with data protection legislation (primarily, the EU GDPR), there is plenty of evidence that the public remain concerned that their health data should be used appropriately, transparently, with accountability and only if there are clear benefits to society from the use. This Round Table examined the issue of societal trust, and what assurances might be acceptable and feasible to provide. It covered three main areas, as working groups, each with multi-stakeholder participation.
Round Table 2
A recipe for trustworthy digital health: standards, architecture and value
Health data is largely collected in multiple siloed health record systems, of variable quality and challenging to integrate for research, public health planning and healthcare quality improvement. This Round Table examined the data, systems and architectural challenges and approaches that are needed to ensure that health data is usable, combinable and of a sufficient quality for accurate analysis.
The outcomes of the first two Round Tables were combined and consolidated into seven transformation areas, with seven corresponding Calls to Action. These Calls to Action were published in February 2021.
The feedback from many stakeholder groups following the publication of the calls to action highlighted the importance of examining these seven areas in greater depth, in particular to look for more specific approaches, recommendations and actions that could be taken. Through renewed industry sponsorship, the DHS and i~HD were able to convene to further Round Tables during 2021.
Round Table 3
Proposing a common basis for health data access across Europe
May & June 2021
This multi-stakeholder round table examined the strategies for providing public assurance, winning societal trust and proposing good practices in data access decision-making. The report is structured in three complementary sections reflecting the working group topics:
A report of Round Table 3 was published in September 2021
Round Table 4
Scaling up the availability and reusability of big health data
October & November 2021
This round table looked at three data and architectural areas that the Calls to Action had highlighted as the most important enablers of large-scale data reuse: improving the uptake of interoperability standards, benchmarking and improving data quality, and promoting the adoption of large-scale, usually federated, health data infrastructures.
A report of Round Table 4 was published in March 2021
In 2022, DHS and i~HD are continuing their collaboration and the next three topics will be:
The exact details of each topic are under development and more information will be announced in the coming months.
We are grateful for the sponsorship of Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft and MSD who have supported the Round Table Programme. The Reports are independent work of the Digital Health Society and i~HD.