MEDICA 2006: the electronic health card faces its first test

MEDICAPatients with state health insurance were originally expected to receive their electronic health cards at the start of the year. Despite the delays, however, there is hope. Those wishing to get an impression of the card's capabilities will find what they're looking for in the IT sections of the MEDICA 2006, the world's largest medical trade fair, where the electronic health card once again promises to be a major topic of discussion.

Visitors to this year's fair, which will be held in Düsseldorf November 15-18 and will feature more than 4200 exhibitors from 65 nations, will be able to check out the card and its capabilities at booths hosted by numerous companies, institutes and associations in halls 14, 15 and 16. Visitors to InterComponentWare of Walldorf's booth, for example, will be able to use an electronic health card to have an electronic prescription issued – and then exchange this for a pharmaceutical blister pack of gummy bears. Visitors will also be able to experience the cards hands-on at the Sagem Orga booth. Everyday technology for hospitals and doctors' offices is provided by companies creating what are known as "connectors", which will connect doctors' offices to the Medizinnetz medical network. The Medizinnetz links doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and insurance providers together to process electronic prescriptions. Booths hosted by Siemens Medical, CompuGroup, MAKData and InterComponentWare will focus on the requisite hardware and software.

Those interested to see how their data could be stored on the electronic health card and associated medical records can also find this information at the MEDICA, where companies such as InterComponentWare, CompuGROUP and Careon.de will showcase file systems for storing patient information.

The electronic health card is still a thing of the future. While the companies developing the technology have made significant progress, the overall development of the card is stagnating. Over the last few months, however, a number of important political steps have been taken. These will also be discussed at the MEDICA, in particular at the MEDICA MEDIA Forum in Hall 16. It has, for example, long been unclear whether or not physicians in private practice will have to enter a PIN number when "signing" an electronic prescription using their electronic Health Professional Card. This issue has now been resolved, and the Federal Network Agency has indicated its support for the addition of a "smart signature". This would enable doctors to enter a PIN number to activate a certain number of signatures and apply them using a biometric fingerprint sensor.

There has also been further clarification of the type of card readers required for electronic health cards and Health Professional Cards. It has been confirmed that it will not be necessary for all practitioners to purchase new card reading devices. Instead, practitioners with multifunctional card terminals (MCTs) will be able to use expansion software to enable them to read electronic health cards.

Initial trials still scheduled for 2006

These simplifications for physicians in private practice may mean that the first practice trials for the health card will still go ahead this year. "Starting December, practical tests using real electronic health cards will be carried out in Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony", says Gematik spokesperson Daniel Poeschkens. These trials, each of which will be performed in 15-25 doctors' offices, will verify only the card's most basic functions – the insurance details. During the trials, patients will receive electronic health cards from their insurance providers, and will then take these to their doctor's office. The doctors will be able to place the cards into a card reader to display information such as the patient's name and insurance status on a monitor.

This is all very far removed from the electronic health card's ultimate function as a medium for electronic prescriptions and a point of access to a complete electronic patient record. Progress is being made, however – after years of preparation, the first electronic health cards will soon be in use.

Further information on the MEDICA 2006 and on the MEDICA MEDIA forum can be found at: http://www.medica.de

Contact:
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Pressereferat MEDICA und ComPaMED 2006
Martin-Ulf Koch / Larissa Browa
Tel.: +49 (0)211 45 60-444 / -549
Fax: +49 (0)211 45 60-8548
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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