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Transforming Healthcare Data Exchange: The Impact of Wegiz Standards

In today’s connected economy, products and services travel the globe at an unparalleled speed. To enable this flow, products and services must meet uniform requirements. If each electronic device required a unique voltage, or each screw had a different head, no one would want or be able to use them.

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Replacing parts when necessary or developing additional products like a set of screwdrivers would become impossible. That is why standardisation institutes are crucial in harmonising practices and protocols across industries and countries. One such institution is NEN, the Royal Netherlands Standardisation Institute, which collaborates with stakeholders to establish standards that facilitate smooth trade and interoperability. 

NEN is involved in creating standards not only for commercial purposes but also on behalf of governments and other public entities. This includes establishing standards that can be referenced within laws and regulations. One of NEN's current tasks, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, is the development of new standards for the healthcare sector. This initiative aligns with the Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare Act (Wet elektronische gegevensuitwisseling in de zorg - Wegiz). NEN is currently engaged in the development of various standards and certification schemes specifically geared towards electronic data exchange in the healthcare industry.

Within the Netherlands, two other organisations work alongside NEN in bolstering the interoperability of information exchange in healthcare: the National Health Care Institute (ZIN), entrusted with quality standards and NICTIZ, dedicated to information standards.

VISMA sat down with Mirjam van der Gugten, EGIZ Project Leader, and Paul Vermeulen, Healthcare Information Interoperability Consultant from NEN. They took the time to explain more about NEN’s work in the Netherlands, its impact across the European Union and its role in developing standards in the context of the Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare Act (WEGIZ). 

“With over 30,000 standards spanning national, European, and international levels, NEN's significance cannot be overstated. However, its role goes beyond just publishing standards; it acts as a facilitator for consensus-building among stakeholders,” explains van der Gugten.

This blog delves into a particular arena where NEN's impact shines brightly - the healthcare industry and the groundbreaking Wegiz standards set to revolutionise healthcare data exchange.

Revolutionising Healthcare Data Exchange under Wegiz Standards

On July 1, 2023, a transformative step was taken in the Netherlands as Wegiz came into effect, representing a pioneering effort to enhance information exchange within the Dutch healthcare sector. The driving force behind this initiative emerged from the need to streamline data exchange in an industry grappling with diverse software and hardware providers, each employing distinct and siloed data formats.

In the grand scheme, Wegiz emphasises primary data usage, which centres around improving data management for healthcare practitioners. This vision aligns with the Dutch government's focus on data-driven healthcare improvements and international collaboration. 

Wegiz focuses at the moment on five types of data exchange in healthcare:

  • Digital Prescription and Dispensation (Medication Transfer)
  • Basic Care Data Set (BgZ)
  • Nursing Handover (eTransfer)
  • Image Availability
  • Acute Care

The functions below serve as a precondition to facilitate information exchange for the five types of data exchange in healthcare mentioned above, although they are not subject to Wegiz legislation. To realise these, the Ministry has created a separate programme for the implementation of generic functions (Implementatie Generieke Functies), which includes:

  • Client and Care Provider Identification
  • Authentication
  • Localisation
  • Consent
  • Authorisation

Prioritising and Elevating Information Exchange

Implementing Wegiz does not intend to enforce specific applications or software upon healthcare providers. Rather, it aims to bring healthcare organisations and professionals together by adopting shared standards and data models, facilitating smooth data exchange. Its objective is to establish an integrated federated system, emphasising data extraction and exchange as a primary opportunity. Wegiz is already closely aligned with upcoming EU regulations, such as the European Health Data Space (EHDS), which enables data sharing across the European Union. For example, any hospital within the EU can access your medical information if an accident occurs in another EU country. 

To ensure accurate data translation and to reduce the risk of misinterpreting data, the SNOMED CT code system is utilised. Medical professionals incorporate this code system into their software solutions so the code will seamlessly translate into the language used by the physician at the point of patient care. This ensures there are no obstacles in utilising the information at an international level. By standardising the data format of the Electronic Patient File (EPD) across healthcare entities, the flow of information becomes notably more efficient.

Certification and Compliance

Hospitals and healthcare organisations can use certified products that comply with Wegiz standards to ensure secure and standardised information exchange. Crucially, this move also encourages software providers to align their offerings with these standards, promoting a unified ecosystem without vendor lock-in constraints. This means vendors must have certified ICT products to ensure compliance with Wegiz. Independent auditors outside of NEN will carry out this certification to ensure transparency. 

“The goal is to create a standardised chain of information exchange, freeing healthcare organisations from technical barriers. Seamlessly information sharing has far-reaching benefits, including aiding medical research and bolstering pandemic preparedness,” states Vermeulen.

Empowering a Data-Driven Healthcare Future

As healthcare data emerges as a valuable resource, the emphasis shifts from exchanging volumes of data to accessing the correct data when needed. With data as the new gold, the objective is clear: facilitating meaningful transactions while safeguarding sensitive information. By embracing Wegiz, the healthcare industry paves the way for a more interconnected, efficient, and effective era of data exchange, unlocking new possibilities for medical advancements and international collaboration.

About Mirjam van der Gugten

Mirjam van der Gugten blog-1With a long trajectory of working as a Standardisation Consultant and Project Leader, Mirjam has been working at NEN for over 15 years. Currently, she works as EGIZ Project Leader, helping to develop standards and certification schemes for electronic data exchange in the healthcare industry by facilitating the conversation among stakeholders.


About Paul Vermeulen

Paul Vermeulen blogPaul is an experienced Consultant/Product Manager/Manager with a vast history of working in the Healthcare information technology and services industry. Skilled in Business Processes, Coaching and IT Service Management, he has been a Healthcare Information Interoperability Consultant at NEN since 2019. 



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