Stripped down electronic health card



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Very slimmed down electronic health card

The statutory health insurance companies are currently in the process of distributing the electronic health cards to the approximately 70 million insured persons in Germany. So far, however, the new cards have only been able to do very little. A nationwide distribution with full functionality is only planned for 2015. The health card today can hardly do more than the old health insurance cards.

All health insurance companies are requested to distribute the new electronic health cards to their members. Actually, the new till card should have been issued nationwide four years ago. Again and again there were technical and data protection concerns that further delayed the introduction. To date, experts estimate the development costs to be around 600 million euros. It remains to be seen whether the costs can be recovered.

Only basic functions implemented for the electronic health card
Now the new health card is to be equipped with additional online functions as quickly as possible. The general meeting of the developer consortium "Gematik" presented a corresponding plan for the Internet connection. It is striking that some of the proposed functions are postponed in order to avoid further delays due to a large number of requirements. The new cards will initially only be launched with online basic functions. Accordingly, only the personal data of the health insurance patient can be compared between the doctor and the health insurance company, as well as an electronic signature for the binding signature of doctor's letters, for example. The new card will not be able to do any more technically.

Errors repeatedly occurred during the first test runs. Delays in the retrieval of the data could be observed because the reading of the data was very slow. As a result, the medical community reacted cautiously to critically to the introduction of the health card. According to a survey by the Techniker Krankenkasse at the time, two thirds of the physicians surveyed indicated that the system should first be made stable before the new cards are introduced. There were great fears that otherwise the sheer chaos in the practices could break out if data interruptions occurred again and again. This is the main reason why the cards are now being given a very slimmed down version.

Patient files and medication prescriptions are still a long way off
Further application options such as electronic medication prescriptions, patient files or electronic doctor's letters are initially not implemented. The “step-by-step approach” would initially create “planning security for everyone involved,” explained Carl-Heinz Müller, chairman of the shareholders' meeting and board member of the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. "Thanks to the flexibility of the solution, other medical applications can also be introduced independently of one another as soon as they have reached the necessary maturity," said Müller.

First of all, the data connections in the doctor's office should obviously be set up and it should be checked whether the standard for data transmission has proven itself in practice. Especially on this point there have been numerous criticisms in the past. The shareholders apparently assume that the manufacturers of the practice software are more willing to create the basics for the online patient files. The latter are also intended to convince critical doctors that an Internet connection is not only advantageous for health insurance companies, but also provides numerous simplifications for medical practices. For the same reason, the electronic signature was also included in the first step of the online rollout.

Representatives of the medical profession were satisfied after the company meeting. Gematik is now planning to publish a new tender for the technical implementation of the online connection. At the beginning of 2013, the first series of tests are to be carried out to improve online technology. If the tests are completed and problems do not arise again, the full health card could go online nationwide in 2015.

The majority of medical practices and hospitals are equipped with terminals
A large number of medical practices and clinics now have card readers. According to the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, over 85 percent have applied for funding for the purchase. Based on the approvals granted, it can be seen that the care of over 95 percent of the health insurance patients is now covered, as the Gematik company explained. The Federal Ministry of Health had instructed the health insurance companies in October to provide at least 10 percent of the insured with new health insurance cards. The health insurance companies had opened online portals especially for this, so that insured persons could upload their passport photos, for example. Based on these and other measures, the federal government's quota requirement can be met by the end of the year. (sb)

Read on:
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Facts about the new electronic health card
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Data Protection Defects Electronic Health Card?
Electronic health card from October 2011
Chaos expected with new health card
Electronic health card warning
Data Protection Defects Electronic Health Card?
Start of the electronic health card

Image: Max Mustermann health card, AOK

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