Berlin (dpa) – The electronic health record (ePA), to which all insured persons are voluntarily entitled from 1 January 2021, will initially start with a test phase.
As the largest IT project in the German healthcare system to date, with a network of 200,000 service providers and possibly 73 million policyholders, the introduction is “a challenging overall process for all involved,” the Federal Ministry of Health replied to a small request from the greens. That is why a step-by-step process is planned.
Health insurers’ e-files should be available for policyholders to download by January 1, 2021, the ministry said. This is the basis for setting up and managing personal health information. At the same time, an “extensive testing and introduction phase with selected medical practices and hospitals” should begin. The aim is to have more institutions participate in the meantime. After the testing phase and final approval, national networking should begin. As provided by law, practices should have the components and services necessary to access the EPR on July 1, 2021.
After years of unrest, the e-files should significantly promote digitization, according to plans by Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). It should – as a voluntary offer – be available as an app and gradually get more functions. In addition to medical reports and X-rays, the vaccination card, maternity card, examination booklet for children and the dental bonus booklet should be available digitally from 2022. Patients decide what they want to save. You also determine who has access to the EPD – but not in a more refined form in the first year. Only from 1 January 2022 must it be stated for each document which doctor can see it.
Greens health expert Maria Klein-Schmeink told the German news agency that the e-file would not be perfect had long been known. But the fact that essential functions are not available at the start is “a lot”. Without technical updates to practices soon, doctors will not be able to enter data. “This means that the added value of the file will remain reasonably manageable in the beginning. For insured parties, the ePA will be no more than a personal cloud for months.”
Moreover, there is a risk of great uncertainty due to a data protection dispute, Klein-Schmeink warned. Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber is complaining about the “slimmed down” access options at the start and has announced warnings and instructions to 65 health insurers with a total of 44.5 million policyholders, for which he is responsible. The Ministry of Health dismisses the concerns.
Klein-Schmeink said it was clear that not everything could go according to plan with a large digital project. “However, this must be discussed transparently and honestly so as not to raise false expectations. Otherwise, it is to be feared that policyholders will try out the ePA, see no benefits for themselves and leave the files on the left. In this way it can provide real added value for patients.