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Introduction of the electronic health card begins in Saxony
The introduction of the controversial electronic health card (eGK) in Saxony is imminent. The persons responsible for the statutory health insurance companies, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KVS) and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Dentists (KZVS) in Saxony have agreed in a framework agreement on the financing of the practice equipment with card readers.
In Saxony, the introduction of the electronic health card (eGK) will begin in April. The costs for the purchase of the card readers, their installation and the adjustment of the practice software are financed by the health insurance companies with a flat rate. An important critical point, which has repeatedly delayed the introduction of the electronic health card, which was actually planned for 2006, is now off the table: The flat-rate fee ensures that there are no financial disadvantages for the doctors. However, concerns about data security have not yet been fully addressed.
Doctors receive flat rates for card readers With the framework agreement between the statutory health insurance companies, the KVS and the KZVS, nothing stands in the way of the introduction of the eGK in Saxony, commented the SaxMediCard working group on the current decision. The financing of the practice equipment with card readers is covered by the health insurance companies in the form of flat rates. The approximately 6,600 doctors and 2,000 dentists in Saxony will receive a flat rate of 355 euros for a stationary card reader and 280 euros for a mobile one for orders placed by September 30, 2011. In addition, they will be reimbursed up to EUR 215 once for the installation and adaptation of the practice software. The Saxon doctors can procure the equipment mentioned from April and then apply for reimbursement of the costs. In the Saxon hospitals, the purchase of the reading devices had already started after the budget negotiations in 2009/10.
Rapid introduction of the electronic health card planned In view of the current framework agreement, the SaxMediCard consortium was confident that it would achieve the goal set by the federal government in the GKV Financing Act to equip one tenth of the insured with the eGK by the end of the year in Saxony. The consortium concluded that there was nothing standing in the way of the introduction of the eGK through the swift agreement on the corresponding flat-rate costs. The doctors are now preparing for the swift implementation of the political decisions, and the KZVS, for example, has already set up a hotline for questions regarding the purchase of card readers. The originally frequently raised data protection concerns seem to have been forgotten spontaneously since an agreement was reached on the funding. For their part, the health insurance companies have also shown a significantly increased interest in introducing the electronic health card as quickly as possible, since it has become clear that the subsidies for administrative costs from the health fund will be reduced by two percent if they do not pay at least ten percent of theirs by the end of the year Insured persons who have issued the new eGK. From October 2011, according to the decisions of the federal government, the electronic health card is to be distributed to the insured throughout Germany.
Storage of patient data on the electronic health card In contrast to the previous chip cards from health insurance companies, the electronic health card will in future store medical data that is essential for the treatment of patients in the long term and will also be clearly identifiable by means of a photo. For example, storing emergency data or prescriptions directly on the eGK is conceivable. However, data protection experts see one of the main problems in the storage of personal data, because they believe that unauthorized persons could gain access to the data and misuse it for other purposes. Dr. tries the President of the Medical Association, Franz-Joseph Bartmann, to dispel such concerns when he emphasized that the eGK only functions as a key, without which medical records and patient data cannot be read. But doubts remain. Because media repeatedly report on data theft, even from highly sensitive areas. Another starting point for critics is the costs associated with the introduction of the eGK. Without offering any real benefits for the insured, the health insurance companies will be charged several million euros for the introduction of the eGK, according to critical experts.
Possible advantages of the electronic health card After the introduction of the eGK had repeatedly been delayed since 2006, the federal government decided last year to introduce a slimmed-down version of the eGK in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the time being, only the so-called master data of the insured are stored on the card now provided and compared online to prevent possible card misuse. Emergency data can also be saved on the eGK if insured so wish, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians explained earlier this year. However, after the comprehensive introduction of the eGK, it is planned to expand it so that doctors can exchange medical reports and information about their patients with each other via the online card terminals. As a result, those responsible hope for a significant improvement in treatment, but it remains to be seen whether this will actually occur. Critics fear that the eGK will be used to uncover cases of card misuse rather than to improve medical care. For statutory health insurers, it is also important to prove that the new system will win medical benefits for their insured and that the eGK will not only be used to enable doctors to check their bills even better in the future. (fp)
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