Germany has introduced the new Digital Care Act, which builds upon the 2016 ‘E Health Act’ that focused on developing information and communication technology in healthcare, particularly in the form of ‘electronic health cards’ and ‘electronic patient files’.
The new Digital Care Act will enable doctors to prescribe health apps, the cost of which, under certain conditions, will be reimbursed by German statutory health insurances.
Additionally, the German Act that currently prohibits the advertising for remote consultations will be amended, and any planned regulations of the introduction of the ‘electronic patient file’ have been removed, in order to facilitate its launch at the turn of the year 2020/2021.
Analysis and Comments
The electronic health card serves as an insurance card for people with statutory health insurance, while the electronic patient file (which hasn’t been built yet) is a further development of the card.
The file will enable statutory health-insured people to access a broad range of medical information such as, for example, findings, diagnoses, therapy measures, treatment reports, and vaccine history.
A separate privacy law governing the sensitive health data that is to be recorded in the electronic patient file is due to come into effect in January 2021.
Ultimately, the new law simply recognises the fact that patients have already been using health apps of various kinds, and stresses Germany’s intent to introduce digital services such as the electronic patient records as soon as possible.
Australia recently introduced a similar patient file called ‘My Health Record’, which apparently not only many Australians have opted out of, but is currently often empty (i.e. not being used as information is not being shared in a meaningful way between all parts of the system).