Germany shelves £1.5bn e-health card scheme

Germany has shelved the introduction of the country’s e-health card system, which has so far cost £1.5bn, according to the British Medical Journal.

The journal says the decision to put the electronic health card system on hold was taken by Germany’s Health Minister Philipp Rösler.

The aim of the scheme had been to give every citizen an electronic card which held their health data, medical history, prescriptions, and insurance status.

The project was due to have launched in January 2006 but is running at least three years behind schedule. The £1.5bn cost so has been met by health insurance companies and the German government.

The BMJ said the new German government, a coalition of the Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democratic Party, had decided to review the e-health card plans, which were the work of the former Social Democrat health minister Ulla Schmidt, because of criticisms from doctors and experts about the safety and security of data, and the feasibility of the technology.

Rösler says the cards will continue to be issued in specified trial areas but will contain only the patient’s basic personal data, insurance status, a photograph, and a small set of health data in case of emergency – if the patient has agreed to this information being put on the card.

It had been hailed as the most extensive e-health communication project in the world.

From January 2006 all 72 million customers of Germany’s health insurance companies, through which Germans access state health care, were supposed to be using the card whenever they saw a doctor, attended a clinic, or bought drugs.

The scheme  was supposed to make 700 million handwritten prescriptions redundant, thus saving much of the cost of the system’s introduction.

But, says the BMJ, the introduction was “far more difficult than expected, because data protection experts were concerned that patients’ privacy may be jeopardised and that unauthorised people could gain access to data online or on the cards”.

Doctors and other healthcare providers were opposed to buying specialist technical equipment, and some thought the card impractical.

Health insurance companies are annoyed at the shelving of the scheme because they want a new card as a substitute for their present membership cards, which do not have a photograph and can be misused.


In November 2008, E-Health Insider reported that German health insurer, Gmünder ErsatzKasse (GEK), had signed a five-year deal with Atos World line, a division of Atos Origin, to implement and operate the new German electronic health card on its behalf.

During 2009, said the article, GEK planned to issue 30,000 cards per day in order to provide its 1.7million members in Germany with the new e-health card. NHS Connecting for Health chose Atos Origin as the main supplier of the UK’s Choose and Book system, which is part of the NHS IT scheme, the NPfIT.


BMJ article [full text requires subscription]

Germany’s GEK picks Atos for e-health card – E-Health Insider

The NPfIT is very high profile but no representative  – peripatetic axiom

Capita gets £133m from the NHS  –