The German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) informed gematik, Germany’s national agency for digital medicine, on 20 December, that the nationwide implementation of digital prescriptions cannot be implemented as initially scheduled.
The launch of the mandatory ePrescription, scheduled for 1 January 2022, has been postponed while the national testing period started at the beginning of December, will continue during the early part of the year.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
According to the Ministry, the necessary technical systems are “not yet available across the board” meaning that GP offices, pharmacies, hospitals and insurers only need to comply with the mandate for digital prescriptions as of this year, if they already have the necessary technical infrastructure in place.
Paper-based prescriptions may therefore continue to be in circulation for the time being, according to the new decision at the BMG.
The main reason for extending the national trial phase is that there is too little experience in the digital prescription process overall. In the previous piloting period in Berlin and Brandenburg from mid 2021 until December only 50 prescriptions were issued and billed instead of 1,000 as originally planned.
Austria, on the contrary, has issued 33,000 digital prescriptions within four months after piloting its ePrescription at the end of 2020.
THE LARGER TREND
The electronic prescription process is intended to save healthcare providers and patients time, effort and travel in the German health care system in the future. It is also intended to increase the safety of drug therapy for patients.
Once the rollout process has been completed nationwide, the obligation to prescribe digitally will then also apply to all healthcare providers across Germany: patients will then receive a prescription code together with intake and dosage instructions displayed in the gematik app after their medical-consultation or video-consultation.
They can choose to show and redeem the prescription code at a pharmacy of their choice or redeem at an online pharmacy for delivery.
ON THE RECORD
Hannes Neumann, product manager at gematik GmbH, commented on the technical hurdles during the testing period: “The market share of the practice management systems certified by Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV) is now more than 90 per cent. Certification is a prerequisite for the nationwide launch of the e-prescription.”
He added: “However, not all manufacturers have achieved certification in time to start testing in October and November. Other manufacturers do not have medical facilities with their installations in Berlin/Brandenburg and asked for an extension to other regions. The participation of hospitals also requires the installation of the corresponding updates by their system manufacturers. Some hospitals are currently on their way.”
Neumann sees great potential in the digital prescription process: “The e-prescription saves patients unnecessary trips, e.g. if the practice transmits follow-up prescriptions directly digitally to the app or prescribes it in a remote treatment. Insured persons can also pre-order medicines from home at the pharmacy of their choice and then pick them up or simply have them delivered.”