Bindeleddet i det digitale sundhedsvæsen



30 years of digitalisation

12. maj 2024 · Reading time: 2 minutes

On May 16 MedCom celebrates its 30-year anniversary in the health it sector.

“Once upon a time, in a small kingdom towards the north, something new was underway. The small project organisation “Danish Centre for Health Telematics” (later just known as MedCom) was established on May 16, 1994. It was given a very important job by the monarch: to connect the health sector electronically.”

This could have been the catchy beginning of the short story you are about to read. Yet what happened 30 years ago in Denmark is not a fairytale. Rather, it was the result of joined-up national efforts, built on local initiatives and innovation in digitalisation of the health sector, and the hard work of pioneers in the field of health IT.

Our roots

In 1994, MedCom was tasked – within 2 years – to undertake a major job. It was to develop and test national EDIFACT-communication standards for the most common messages used between general practitioners and the rest of the health sector. Examples included discharge letters, laboratory results, and prescriptions. It was also to establish a Danish Health Data Network (SDN).

The organisation was set up in Odense – where we still are – in the middle of Denmark. The symbolism of this location has two parts: it is due to MedCom’s national implementation role, and because Odense is coincidentally the same city where Danish fairytale writer, Hans Christian Andersen, was born and lived for most of his life.

What we do

Since 1994, many other standards and new formats have been added to our list of achievements. Every month, the exchange of information and messages based on MedCom’s standards amounts to close to 7.5 million. The Danish Health Data Network is still operational but has been modernised to meet changed organisational and clinical needs and technical opportunities.

We now run large Danish national implementation projects, and we are System Manager for three joint public health infrastructures. Today, the number of staff has grown from the original two to 49 people. Even more staff are to come, in the future.

Read more about MedCom’s vision and work here.

International collaboration has always had a special role in MedCom. The year after we were established, we already joined our first European project – CoCo. Since then, we have been part of many more EU-funded projects and have kept a strong tie to European partners and networks, including EHTEL, of which we have been a member for 20+ years

Our current international focus is in three fields. We work on standardisation and interoperability, especially on HL7® FHIR®; the European Electronic Health Record Exchange Format (EEHRxF) through our co-leadership of the xShare project; and the upcoming implementation of the European Health Data Space (EHDS) Regulation.

What about the future?

30 years of being part of the evolution witnessing the impact that health IT has had for so many health professionals and patients is a huge privilege. Both nationally and internationally, more change and more opportunities await in the coming years. Luckily, 30 years is still young.

Today, we have several important tasks on our plate. We have just started to modernise the standardisation approach in Denmark to accommodate not only technical possibilities but also organisational and business drivers. These standards will be used in more complex care and treatment settings, with multiple actors, and with more patient involvement and control. We are building a new data exchange infrastructure, and we also expect the EHDS Regulation to set a direction for our work. With all these challenges, the next 30 years will go by equally fast!