New medical prescription practice, effective as of January, reports 1.7 mio. individual cases

During the first 14 days of the (sort of) mandatory electronic prescription, 11,000 healthcare facilities and 23,000 practitioners issued altogether 1,702,755 ePrescriptions, 87% of which were filled by 2 670 pharmacies. What further steps towards the digitalization of healthcare await us?

At this point, it is fairly well known that healthcare providers will in the future have to issue electronic prescriptions for pharmaceuticals (known as ePrescriptions). The central difference compared to the traditional prescription in paper form is the ePrescription identifier: a 12-digit code (both in alphanumeric and bar-code form).

Another defining feature: the issuing practitioner no longer adds a stamp and handwritten signature, but signs off with an electronic signature instead. He or she will then “hand out” the prescription to you electronically (which can also happen remotely), via e-mail, mobile app, text message, or physically in form of a paper slip.

The ePrescription issued by the physician will be deposited in the Central Depository for Electronic Prescriptions (CÚER) which is maintained and administered by the State Institute for Drug Control. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist will read off the ePrescription identifier; once he or she has retrieved the corresponding prescription in the CÚER, the relevant pharmaceuticals may be handed over to the patient.

Thus far, we are dealing with a novelty that may be interesting to patients but is not exactly groundbreaking. However, from the vantage point of active participants in the system – prescribing doctors, healthcare facilities, pharmacies – the introduction of this system is associated with non-negligible administrative and technical duties and challenges.

None the less, the main piece in the puzzle – without which further electronization of the sector would lack a deeper rationale – has yet to be implemented, both for doctors and patients.

This main innovation is the launch of a record of prescriptions, i.e., a record of all pharmaceuticals prescribed to a given patient by all their treating physicians. The system in its current manifestation gives the patient such an all-seeing overview, but the physician can only see the pharmaceuticals which they prescribed themselves – something which they could just as well glean from the patient’s file.

Of course, the above-described change will require a much more fundamental intervention by the lawmaker: after all, it calls for nothing less than the collection and processing of a substantial volume of sensitive personal data. Here, healthcare legislation collides with data protection legislation, both in the national arena and on the level of community law (in particular, the very pertinent and notorious EU General Data Protection Regulation). With this in mind, it makes sense and it advisable to timely study the additional administrative/technical requirements and other statutory conditions and requirements (i.e., the obligations imposed unto healthcare providers) in the field of protection of patients’ personal data, especially since even such an innocuous step as accessing and viewing personal data qualifies as a form of data processing.

Source: Act No. 378/2007 Coll., on pharmaceuticals and on the amendment of certain related laws (Act on Pharmaceuticals), Sec. 80 et seq.

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