Tech

Germany aims to become EU leader in digital health revamp

The EUs biggest country is eyeing a digital overhaul of its massive health care system, and it wants to take the bloc along for the ride.

Strong concerns about privacy have long hampered efforts to digitalize health care in Germany. But its health minister, Jens Spahn, has now made doing so one of his top priorities.

This week, the German parliaments health committee is hashing out with doctors, insurers and health industries representatives the draft Digital Supply Law that Spahn proposed earlier this year. One of its measures — a provision that would require German health insurers pay for apps that help diabetes patients manage their sickness, for example — is already facing opposition from the Bavarian State Medical Association. The group contends these apps shouldnt be used without involving doctors in their prescription, the German Press Agency reported.

The legislation would also encourage doctors offering video consultations to make patients aware of this option, and it would grant a higher reimbursement rate to physicians if they send medical correspondence via email rather than by fax. Under present rules, reimbursement rates are higher for faxed correspondence, the ministry said.

In addition, the German health ministry wants to create an electronic health record for all insured patients by 2021. To address Germans long-standing concerns over privacy and personal data protection, the government will introduce a separate law on the protection of health data in electronic patient records, the ministry said.

Luxembourg and the Czech Republic started exchanging electronic health records in June, the first of such exchanges in the EU.

The success or failure of these plans may be useful for Germany next year, when it wants to make digital health and artificial intelligence European priorities, during its rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

Earlier this month, Spahn penned an op-ed with Ursula von der Leyen, a fellow German Christian Democrat and the president-elect of the European Commission, to make the case that Europe must come up with its own rules for how technology should be used to benefit society. This framework, they argued, should be distinct from the U.S. and Chinese models, where either commercial or government interests prevail over those of individuals.

“In the German health care system, we aim for a governmental collection of data for which citizens can volunteer their anonymized data,” they wrote, as an example on data use. This database should be accessible under controlled conditions for researchers, who could use it to come up with “new, successful screening, treatment, medication or diagnostic procedures.”

Germany wants to use its presidency to work on the European Health Data Space, a task that von der Leyen has set for the next European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. This platform should be created to promote exchanges of health data and support research on prevention as well as on treatments, with EU citizens maintaining control on their data, von der Leyen wrote in Kyriakidess mission letter.

Stella Kyriakides task as the next European Health Commissioner will be to work on the European Health Data Space | Aris Oikonomou/AFP via Getty Images

Germany isnt alone in this push. Several smaller countries, for example, have moved to share e-prescriptions and patient summaries. At least 4,300 prescriptions have been exchanged since the beginning of the year between Finland and Estonia, two neighboring countries where citizens can easily hop on a ferry back and forth.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic started exchanging electronic health records in June, the first of such exchanges in the EU. This effort is part of a bigger plan to connect national e-health services, with 22 out of the 28 EU member countries involved.

While the partnership between Estonia and Finland may look like a small-bore initiative, it has addressed a real need between the two countries to be able to exchange e-prescriptions, Andrus Ansip, an Estonian member of the European Parliament and a former vice president of the European Commission in charge of the digital single market, said at the POLITICO roundtable. Prior to the exchange, pharmacists in each country had to constantly refuse to fill prescriptions.

Estonia and Finland, along with Denmark, Sweden and Spain, are seen as superstars on digital health. But manyRead More – Source

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