The Bundestag has passed a bill for more digitalization in health care. The so-called Digital Supply Act (Digitale-Versorgung-Gesetz - DVG) of German Health Minister Jens Spahn provides for a series of measures such as health apps, digital medical reports and online consultations.
What will change for the approximately 73 million people in Germany with statutory health insurance?
Many people are already using health care apps such as diabetes diaries or digital applications for high blood pressure patients. In future, they should no longer pay for those apps themselves but the costs will be reimbursed by their statutory health insurance. The procedure should run as follows: after an inspection of the app by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices on data security, data protection and functionality, the statutory health insurance companies cover the costs for one year. During this period, the manufacturers must prove the effectiveness of their app and negotiate a price with the top association of all public health insurance companies (GKV-Spitzenverband). At the moment only statutory insured persons benefit from this regulation as the implication in the sector of private health insurance can not be decided by law, the Health Minister stated.
Patients should be able to find doctors offering online consultations easier in the future. Therefore doctors are now allowed to inform about those offers on their websites. Until 2018, doctors were only allowed to advise patients unknown to them in a personal conversation.
Electronic medical reports
The electronic transmission of medical reports, which may include results and findings, should be promoted in the future. In order to create an incentive for the application of the online version, faxes will be reimbursed less. So-called teleconsises, i.e. consultations between physicians, are made possible on a larger scale and remunerated outside the budget. For patients to benefit from the new regulations, doctors, pharmacies and hospitals must join the telematics infrastructure.
Data dissemination for research purposes
This point is controversial and has been critized by the opposition because of the fact that the statutory health insurances will in future pass on data such as age, gender, place of residence and treatments for research purposes. Patients have no opportunity to object agains this.
The law provides for the following procedure: The health insurance companies must pass on personal data to their top association. They anonymize the information and make it available for research. The data is to be managed by an extended research data center, which is located at the Federal Ministry of Health. In addition to personal data such as age and gender, information about the insurance status, the benefit receipt and the health status of the approximately 73 million publically insured persons should be collected.
According to Spahn's bill, the patient data should be used for "research, in particular for longitudinal analysis over longer periods of time, analyzes of treatment processes or analyzes of the care process". According to the bill, the data can be used by authorities, research institutes or university hospitals. The industry is not mentioned as a beneficiary.
Remedies and aids
Prostheses or wheelchairs should also be able to be prescribed online in the future. The actors in the health sector are obliged to make the necessary preparations. The German legislation has already set the course for the electronic prescription for medicines.
Joining health insurance
Anyone wishing to join a statutory health insurance company voluntarily should be able to do so electronically in the future. In addition, health insurance companies are allowed to provide information electronically about their innovative care offers.