Small Chip, Big Effect -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

In future Germans are going to use the electronic health card which will gradually displace the health insurance card which has been used in the past. The new system is supposed to ameliorate the communication between medical institutions and save costs.

Around 80 million people with health insurance, 200,000 physicians, 21,000 pharmacies, 2,200 hospitals and more than 300 health insurance companies have to be integrated – for the linking-up of the whole health care system and the patients by means of the electronic health card is just around the corner. The biggest IT project in the country is supposed to bring about improvements such as all people working in the health care sector communicating more easily with each other. Besides that medical data are supposed to become more transparent.

The key to the modernisation of the health care is a chip like the ones used in ordinary computers. Due to the integrated microchip the new electronic health card – as opposed to the memory card, which is in use now - will be able to process data like a traditional computer. In the future every medical institution should be able to record information and to work with the information of other institutions. With the card as it is in use now only a small amount of information can be accessed as for example the kind of insurance or the date of birth.

A first step into this direction is the introduction of the electronic prescription that is supposed to save costs. The 700 million prescriptions on paper would be replaced by electronic procedures and it would no longer be necessary to scan the prescriptions. The innovation could organise the processing in pharmacies and doctor´s surgeries more efficiently and thus reduce the costs. Furthermore, comprehensive drug documentations and a patient chart that can be regarded from the physicians are supposed to follow.

Laboratory or examination findings or a simple change of physicians can be tracked easily. If a patient changes the physician the new surgery has immediately access to information concerning the state of health of the patient due to the data that is saved on the card. Gradually a platform evolves to which all medical institutions – from the doctor´s surgery to the hospital – have access. When the electronic health card is on hand the data can be transferred to the computer easily where they can be further utilised.

The project electronic health card was supposed to enter the test stage at the beginning of this year. Eight regions were chosen, among others Bremen, Flensburg and Trier. However, the temporarily not really matured state of development didn´t allow this. The first dry run is now estimated for the end of this year.

The latest developments in the area of the electronic health card will be reported within the scope of MEDICA 2006 in the area of MEDICA MEDIA.