The outbreak of the pandemic has forced us right from the start into a close confrontation with the digital world. Despite the fact that we spend a large percentage of our time online, digitization has not yet succeeded in establishing itself in bureaucratic contexts, where it is supposed to facilitate the flow of official information.
This time politics is putting the pressure on by favoring exclusively the electronic format because, in parallel with the closure of offices, it has suddenly had to set up digital alternatives.
This radical change has put everyone on edge, particularly the health sector. In fact, medical practices, in addition to trying to coordinate their routines with the high risk of infection, now have to organize tests and vaccines against COVID-19 as well.
The Ministry of Health has decided that medical practices will be obliged to use the telematics infrastructure from the middle of this year and will bring about
- the introduction of the electronic medical record (ePA, or elektronische Patientenakte) from 1 June;
- the introduction of the electronic medical prescription (elektronisches Rezept) from 1 July;
- direct communication with the Krankenkasse by medical practices.
Access to ePA and eRezept will be via a health card provided with a PIN code, possibly combined with an App that can be downloaded to mobile devices. From 2022, the vaccination certificate (Impfpass), the maternity record (Mutterpass) and the personal children’s health record (U-Heft) will also be integrated into the digitalization process. Only from next year, however, patients will be able to decide who has access to each individual document within the ePA.
Doctors recognize these measures as inadequate and the sanctions resulting from non-compliance are seen as unfair, as they are not technically feasible in the immediate future. For example, already in the monitoring period one third of the doctors’ practices experienced problems with the installation of the necessary software, which is far too high. In response, doctors state that the need would be primarily to improve patient care and consequently to experiment more intensively with new methods, which would then be introduced in real time.
Also under criticism is the poor protection of patient data. They could be used to save expensive treatments for seriously ill patients with low life expectancy.
Even pharmaceutical companies could get benefit from this by monitoring the sales of drugs and which doctors prescribe them, so that they can effectively plan visits by pharmaceutical representatives.