E-health push hits wall in Germany

In Germany, many in the medical field think that the government’s push to roll out nationwide e-health cards may mean too much technology too fast.

Germany has already partially transitioned to electronic health records, and many hospitals are currently in the midst of a major transition to electronic records, said Martin Peuker, the deputy CIO of Charite Hospital in Berlin. He said that the electronic health cards would be interoperable with EHR programs in hospitals and store, as well as retrieve, patient medical history, insurance information and prescriptions on a microchip.

Beta versions of the cards, which are currently being tested in northwest Germany, recently met national security and privacy regulations required for a national rollout, according to Gematik, a private company involved in the design of the card.

Still, some health IT experts expressed concern.

“It’s a typically German project — very complicated,” Peuker said.

Peuker and his IT team are interested in the e-health card, but warn that convincing doctors to use technology can be a difficult task. According to Peuker, even before the card technology was tested, there were problems with the older EHR implementation. For several years, he said, Charite Hospital has been refining its EHR system. Doctors often protest having to use it. “Every day, we have this discussion,” Peuker said. “They say, it would be so much faster to do it all on paper.”

In Canada, the government has invested billions of dollars on a national electronic health records system.

Despite government efforts many Canadian doctors are still not using electronic medical records.

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In April, German insurance companies announced they were ready to deploy e-health cards throughout the country, but faced resistance from doctors and pharmacists who refused to purchase the necessary card reading equipment.

“I think the paper prescription system works well the way it is,” said Inga Veltrup, the head pharmacist of Rosen Apotheke, one of the busiest pharmacies in downtown Munich. “We’ll run into all types of technical problems if something doesn’t work.”

However, she acknowledged that using the card could help add a level of security that paper prescriptions do not provide. “Right now it is very easy to catch glimpses of a patient’s birthdate, name and address,” she said.

The beta e-health cards were distributed in 2007 as joint program between Germany’s federal health ministry and the country’s public health insurance companies. Several private sector companies, including Gematik, have been enlisted to help design and produce the cards.

Gematik was recently criticized for not backing up the data stored on the first generation cards, The H Security reported.

Still, the health ministry hopes major issues will be ironed out and that the card can be rolled out countrywide by the end of this year.

Other countries, such as Slovenia, are also rolling out e-health card systems. Australian government officials are in discussions about a possible e-health card as well, according to The Australian.

(The Industry Standard)

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