New EN 17269 ‘Health informatics - International Patient Summary’ (IPS) ensures a good level of care all across the globe  

Ensuring a good level of care all across the globe? This will now become possible, thanks to newly published EN 17269 ‘International Patient Summary’ (IPS). This new standard defines a minimal dataset containing the generic and important aspects of a person’s healthcare history to ensure continuity of care, while making no assumptions about the specialty of the attending clinician at the point of care, nor whether the patient is already known by the selected healthcare provider. The IPS dataset can be used for both planned and unplanned care, providing concise information that is relevant for the treatment of any condition. Furthermore, the content of the summary should be familiar and understandable, useful on its own but also valuable as a starter set that can be complemented by more detailed data if required.

The importance of EN 17269 is because patient summaries are ubiquitous and part of the very fabric of the healthcare domain. Indeed, they are not ‘new’.  Arguably, they are as old as medical practice and there are no ‘green-field’ sites to be found. This is because the Patient Summary is simple enough in concept, pervasive and relatively easy to implement, so much so that most, if not all, healthcare systems have their own version. Unfortunately, this popularity makes it difficult to share patient data, thus undermining its fundamental intent of ensuring continuity of care.

In this context, EN 17269 is not another implementation of a patient summary. Rather, it offers a high-level specification that is implementation-independent, and its plain language and clear layout provides a formal model that makes it easy to derive implementations.  The objective of EN 17269 is to provide IPS as a single, standardised and sustainable template for useful and usable content for both planned and unplanned care across the globe, thus supporting continuity of care for all.

It is probably wise to be cautious and not to overstate EN 17269’s importance at the outset: all impact must be judged on the longer-term. However, given the enthusiastic international commitment already garnered by the standard in its pre-publication phase, there is strong confidence that it will be widely used.  In particular, there are specific benefits that EN 17269 can offer to different groups of users:

  • For individuals, IPS offers better informed continuity of care available both to patients themselves and those who care for them;
  • For society as a whole, IPS fosters the establishment of a basic level for international care regardless of locality, supporting travel and discovery throughout the world;
  • For industry, IPS provides a single solution that is both stable and extensible in a controlled manner, as it allows unlocking global health data exchange.  For the consumer, it avoids lock-in to non-standard patient summary implementations.

EN 17269 has been realized under the responsibility of CEN/TC 251 'Health informatics', whose Secretariat is currently held by NEN, the Dutch standardisation body.

For more information, please contact Jennifer OGBONNA