Criticism of doctors: Gematik does not make e-prescriptions mandatory
The mandatory introduction of e-prescriptions in medical practices, pharmacies and clinics will be postponed. It has become clear that “the necessary technical systems are not yet widely available,” says a letter from the Federal Ministry of Health, which the dpa has received and which is dated December 20. “Apotheke Adhoc” had previously reported. According to a ministry representative, availability is a prerequisite for the mandatory introduction. Now “the controlled test and pilot operation is to be continued and expanded step by step in the coming weeks”. A new date from which the obligation will take effect has not yet been set.
The letter is addressed to the shareholders of the Gematik company responsible for the e-prescription. The shareholders include the German Medical Association and the umbrella association of statutory health insurances as well as the Federal Ministry of Health, which holds the majority in Gematik. There had been strong concerns among the medical community – the original schedule was believed to be unrealistic. These concerns are now being addressed.
Digital prescription is a mammoth project in the healthcare sector that has had teething problems for a long time. A pilot project in Berlin and Brandenburg in the summer brought hardly any information. The nationwide test phase planned for October was postponed to December because the necessary IT updates were lacking. The Germany-wide compulsory start from January was initially retained, but the obligation was weakened: In November Gematik announced that it would only apply the obligation to those “who are technically capable”. The mandatory introduction has thus become a paper tiger – and even this weak requirement is now being thrown into the trash.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gematik described the first quarter of 2022 as a “transition period” during which installations and training courses for the use of the updates could take place. The company underpinned its demand on the health industry, “that the test phase must be used intensively by all those involved so that a digitization project like the e-prescription can work together”. As soon as certain quality criteria are met, the e-prescription should be rolled out across the board. The further procedure will be coordinated with the shareholders in the coming weeks, according to Gematik.
With the e-prescription, the paperwork for recipes is to be ended. The 73 million people with statutory health insurance in Germany currently receive around 500 million prescriptions every year. In future, they should receive a QR code, either on their smartphone or – if the Gematik app “E-prescription” is not yet used – printed out. Access to the digital prescription via the app can be practical, for example if you have attended a video consultation and the doctor does not have to send a paper prescription by post afterwards. The digital prescription does not apply to those with private health insurance.
The health industry reacted with relief to the postponement of the mandatory start. “The shockingly low number of successfully issued e-prescriptions shows that a real and successful test phase is missing,” said the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds. Federal Medical Association President Klaus Reinhardt pointed out that at the beginning of December only 42 e-prescriptions were issued and successfully billed. Intensive comprehensive tests are necessary.
The German Pharmacists Association (DAV) emphasized that they were in favor of the e-prescription and the rapid introduction. The pharmacies are ready. “But if you look at the entire process from the prescription to the redemption and receipt to the billing of the e-prescription, then there are still considerable technical problems,” said DAV chairman Thomas Dittrich. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians spoke of a “late but correct insight”.
The federal chairman of the German Association of General Practitioners, Ulrich Weigeldt, declared that digitization should “not raise any technical or bureaucratic hurdles that complicate the workflow”. Under no circumstances should the supply of pharmaceuticals be endangered for the patients, “because the technology somehow gets stuck or data is being transmitted incorrectly,” said Weigeldt.
On the other hand, the board of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, expressed anger. The then Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) wanted to “finally bring momentum to the widespread introduction of the e-prescription”. But now the project “ran aground”. It is “precisely the medical profession who like to hold on to old braids at the expense of the patients.” (dpa / rs)