Overcoming challenges with cross-border data sharing

Facilitating cross-border data sharing can require significant legal and policy expertise, for example to ensure compliance with relevant legislation in the countries where the data is stored, the countries where the patients reside, and the countries where the data is to be used.

There are a number of ways to navigate and overcome these challenges:

  • Running a pilot project can be helpful to identify potential obstacles and clarify regulatory contexts for cross-border data sharing.

  • International data-sharing treaties can enable health data sharing through agreement of common terms and processes. At the time of writing (November 2021), these are in early stages of negotiation and agreements have not yet been reached. Following any agreement, a lead-in time should be expected, to allow member countries to align national legislation and for new processes to be developed to oversee implementation at a country and regional level.

  • Publishing data under an open licence, with no restrictions on reuse or sharing, can remove concerns over legal compliance, and enable cross-border data sharing.

Cross-border data sharing is an area requiring ongoing review and assessment, as regulations and global agreements are in constant flux. Forthcoming decisions are expected over the coming years, which in turn will impact national implementation.

The play on assessing legal, regulatory and policy contexts will help to identify and maintain oversight of emerging policies, laws and cultural practices, and should be revisited regularly to adapt to the constantly changing policy context.

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