Digitalisation bill paves way for health reform
The government has adopted a bill on the digitalisation of healthcare, the first part of a planned health reform package that is supposed to thoroughly change how the system is financed and managed.
From next year, all public healthcare providers will have to send medical paperwork to a single IT healthcare system called eKarton (eRecord) that will be managed by a new state-owned company.
Full implementation is scheduled for 2026 if everything goes according to plan.
While there is no question that digitalisation is needed, some concerns have been raised about the security of patient data.
Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said on 8 June this aspect has been thoroughly vetted in discussion with the national data protection authority and the Justice Ministry.
There are safety mechanisms enabling every patient to see online who accessed their medical records and "every access will be logged," the minister said.
Only the patient and healthcare staff if the patient has a valid referral for a certain service will have access to the data.
However, in case of sensitive data such as genetics, psychiatry, clinical psychology and gynaecology, healthcare staff will be able to access it only with the permission of the patient.
Special attention will be paid to vulnerable persons, those who are for various reasons, temporarily or permanently, not able to fully understand their situation or enforce their rights.
The government is working on a possibility for these persons to authorise their relatives to access their data.
Bešič Loredan is confident that digitalisation will enable truly transparent management, including in terms of funds. Once the system is up-and-running, "one will be able to see who has done what at what price", he said.
Healthcare providers will not be able to exit the IT system because taking part will be a prerequisite for getting paid.
The government is working on other bits of health reform as well, most notably and controversially the abolition of supplementary health insurance, which is currently provided by private insurers.
This type of insurance, which is not mandatory but is essential for all but emergency services, will be folded into the state-run health insurance.
According to current plans, any shortfall will be covered by the national budget.