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03. April 2017, Koblenz

Electronic Health Records - Industry Shakes a Leg in Interoperability.

The most important providers of electronic health record solutions in health-IT have agreed to realize full interoperability for electronic health records. In a joint meeting, one emphasized the importance of common interfaces and existing international standards and agreed on a clear path for the definition of such interfaces. Without these, electronic health records would largely be useless and could not unfold their great impact on healthcare. The industry is advancing in the matter of interoperability and is thus creating the requirements to provide all necessary health data to the insured people, patients, as well as physicians in a timely, comfortable, as well as highly secure manner at the same time. According to the wishes of the legislator, the electronic health records are to be available to all insured people by January 01, 2019.

Electronic health records, being the heart of all eHealth applications, will bring the greatest benefit for insured people, patients, and the healthcare system in general; that is what all parties involved in healthcare agree on. The fact that it has not been introduced in Germany yet was partly due to politics and self-administration not being able to agree on a secure infrastructure to transfer highly sensitive health data over many years. The industry was able to start work three years ago. In the meantime, the telematics infrastructure (TI) has advanced well.

"We are more than optimistic that the deadlines of the eHealth Act can be met and that the telematics infrastructure will be available in a timely manner and nationwide,“ says Frank Gotthardt, Chief Executive Officer of CompuGroup Medical SE (CGM). The consortium of CGM has already been in the practical testing phase of the TI for some weeks.

With the TI, physicians will be able to exchange patients’ data online with one another in a secure way or directly provide the data to the patient in the same way. Thus, the question about interoperability arises, meaning how users of diverse software systems can communicate with one another.

For CGM the right point in time to address these matters practically, too. “Electronic health records which insured people can have at any provider of their choice must be interoperable with all ambulatory and hospital information systems as well as with one another. Otherwise, a number of individual specialist programmings would have to be set up, which would not be realizable anymore. Hence, we would like to find a joint solution for all providers,” says Oliver Bruzek, Vice President Political & Public Affairs of CGM.

The Industry Agrees on a Common Plan

The most important providers of future electronic health records - competitors in the market - thus met at the invitation of CGM for a joint workshop. Among them were companies such as InterSystems GmbH, vitabook GmbH, or eHealth business Services GmbH. First, one explored the joint interest in a uniform solution and quickly agreed on a clear path of implementation.

"Nobody is able to realize interoperability of very complex software systems better that the providers of the software themselves,“ explains Dr. Thorsten Vogel, Chief Technology Officer of CGM. "Together with the colleagues of the other companies, we want to define common standards in terms of interoperability for the electronic health records very quickly and in doing so especially use the existing international standards. Wherever these simply have not existed yet, we will develop them together and thus create standards,” continues Dr. Vogel.

“For careon, a company which has operated electronic health records for health insurances for the past 15 years, the implementation of the telematics infrastructure is of utmost importance. The faster interoperability among the diverse record solutions is guaranteed, the better for the market development,” highlights Dr. Harald Sondhof, Managing Director at careon GmbH.

vitabook gmbH understands its role as a representative of a new kind of software provider, according to Markus Bönig: “Our services are already fully integrated in the Microsoft Cloud Germany and we see our company as a service provider of the citizens’ health data. Interoperability is therefore our highest priority.“

Data Security: Common Interfaces by the Industry

A major challenge in producing full interoperability are, inter alia, the encryption systems associated with high requirements in Germany and which have been developed for the highest possible security of the sensitive data. These are available at the providers in various forms. If these highly complex security mechanisms are to be maintained, it is mandatory the industry itself develops and realizes common interfaces and not to have these matters decided by third parties on a theoretical basis.

The electronic health record is, according to the wishes of the legislator, to be offered to all insured people in Germany by January 01, 2019. Then, the treating physicians would be obliged to make their documentation in this record available to the patients.

Frank Gotthardt is sure that a common interface can be defined and realized long before this date and in mutual agreement with the competitors: “The companies in healthcare IT which are almost all active internationally do not only share the greatest interest in interoperability, but are also the ones which bring along the necessary know-how for complex tasks like this one.”


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