European health information project BRIDGE Health looks to the future

European health information

Petronille Bogaert and Herman Van Oyen at BRIDGE Health provide a fascinating overview of the European health information project today

BRIDGE Health was a European health project under the third European Union (EU) Health Programme. The acronym stands for Bridging Information and Data Generation for Evidence-based Health Policy and Research. The project was launched in May 2015 and ran until October 2017. It was coordinated by the Scientific Institute of Public Health in Belgium and included 31 partners in 16 countries.

It also assured a knowledge transfer from past health and research frameworks in domains of population health and health system monitoring, indicator development, health examination surveys, environment and health, population-based injury and disease registries, maternal and child health, clinical and administrative health data collection systems and methods of health system performance assessment.

One of the major tasks of BRIDGE Health was to prepare a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable EU Health Information System, which incorporates know-how and technical tools to coordinate and harmonise research and surveillance for member states in key EU health policy areas.

The Concept Paper: how to improve the EU health information system?

The Concept Paper presents the BRIDGE Health analysis of the current situation and the possibilities for creating an organisational entity that could take up some of the support tasks that come with the need for strengthening the EU health information system. Using multi-criteria analysis, the advantages, disadvantages and short-term feasibility were investigated for strengthening or extending existing structures (ECDC, DG SANTE, the JRC, Eurostat, WHO or OECD) or by creating a new structure (a new agency, an ERIC, a Joint Action, or a supra-European structure).

This analysis concludes that a European Research Infrastructure Consortium on Health Information for Research and Evidence-based Policy (HIREP-ERIC) is now the most feasible option. This may set important steps in the right direction and fulfil some of the most important criteria for an effective organisation around the scientific underpinning of health policy by new and better evidence from more and better comparable data.

What is the HIREP-ERIC?

A European Research Infrastructure Consortium or ERIC, is a legal structure recognised under European Union law that brings together scientists and researchers across Europe. The ERIC consortium provides a network of relations between scientists from various countries, and between scientists and policy-makers. In this way an ERIC facilitates interaction of existing institutions and ensures a more permanent and sustainable collaboration.

The HIREP-ERIC strives to this for the field of health information. It can facilitate the governance of health information activities in the EU by bringing together existing networks in health information and support the development of new ones both within and between the Member States. In practice, the HIREP-ERIC provides central governance for regular availability and easy access to high quality and comparable data from EU countries for research and policy purposes at national, EU and international level in fields of population health monitoring and health system performance assessment.

The activities of the HIREP-ERIC

The HIREP-ERIC will focus its activities on generating, hosting, exchanging and translating health information.

Generating health data and indicators

The HIREP-ERIC will provide technical and expert support for the development of comparable, standardised and accessible data and indicators for health status and health determinants, health services and health systems. This includes updating and developing new indicators, where needed, and improving and evaluating existing indicator sets.

Hosting health information

The HIREP-ERIC will facilitate and support the development and hosting of virtual and interoperable repository platforms. It will provide central coordination for EU countries to provide data and exploit economies of scale by facilitating the extension of existing data repositories.

Exchange health information

The HIREP-ERIC will enhance best practice exchange between countries and support mutual learning by focused capacity building. This can be done through dedicated training programs set-up and supported by the HIREP-ERIC.

Translate health information

The evidence and knowledge produced by research are not always readily available and may need further analyses, syntheses and translations to inform policymaking. The HIREP-ERIC will support researchers and institution in charge of health monitoring to optimise their output to better inform policymakers and citizens.

The HIREP-ERIC structure

The HIREP-ERIC will host two types of networks of scientists.

The national network. These are in EU countries national counterparts that are a member of the HIREP-ERIC. The national network brings together the key players in health information in a country and ensures there is an interaction between those players at national level. Additionally, the national network will be a national health information provider and interact with the HIREP-ERIC. The national networks work on cross-cutting issues.

The domain-specific networks. These are network coordinators in health information domains. They are content specific and respond to current priorities and projects. The domain-specific networks carry out deep analysis in an area for which capacity does not always lie at a national level. They can liaise with national networks providing guidance on how to collect and analyse data at national level, and through this, harmonise activities.

What after BRIDGE Health?

Every end is a new beginning. A new Joint Action on Health Information entitled InfAct will start and continue the work described here. Among other tasks, InfAct will focus on the development of the business case and roadmap for implementation of the HIREP-ERIC, including the set-up of national networks and domain-specific networks.

Please note: this is a commercial profile

Petronille Bogaert

Project Researcher

Herman Van Oyen


Scientific Institute of Public Health Belgium

Tel: +32 2 642 57 48


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