Overshadowed by the pandemic, a fundamental healthcare law has been in the making.
Digitization of the healthcare sector is a hot topic not only in the Czech Republic but also in other EU Member States.
The Act on the Digital Transformation of Healthcare is designed to provide a comprehensive legal framework for digitizing the field by bringing modern telecommunication and information technology into the fold, and stipulating the rights and obligations of patients, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders. While certain self-contained elements of digitization in healthcare have previously been introduced by existing laws, such as electronic prescriptions (“eRecept”) and sick notes (“eNeschopenka”), the sector is in need of a coherent act of law to establish well-defined outlines for the digital transformation of healthcare.
The draft bill anticipates the creation of a basic infrastructure – which it calls Integrated Data Interface, and which will represent an information system of public administration. It will consist of a backbone of basic registers with master data and related services branching off of them. Among the registers to be created, there will be master databases for patients, healthcare professionals, and healthcare service providers. Patients will have access to their data via an electronic healthcare portal.
The digital transformation of healthcare entails the processing of humongous volumes of personal data of patients, including the special category of personal data related to people’s medical history and health status. This is a sensitive area, and the Czech Data Protection Office brought a host of proposals for changes and adjustments to the bill during the inter-departmental commenting process.
The bill ought to be written into law effective as of 1 January 2022, though a number of provisions will only come into force after a transition period. It is during the very last stage, i.e., as of 1 January 2032, that healthcare providers will be obliged to conform to the standards of electronic healthcare. A ten-year period between promulgation of a law and its coming into force may be unusual, but appears justified in this particular case, considering the need for implementation of numerous instruments which have yet to be brought into existence. Thanks to the fact that the various parts of the law will come into force on a staggered schedule of six stages, healthcare providers and other stakeholders will be able to familiarize themselves with their new obligations in due time and make the necessary preparations on their part (whereas the obligation, for instance, to use the above-mentioned master data and to ensure compatibility of one’s information system with the Integrated Data Interface, will apply already as of 1 July 2023).
The second reading of the bill in the House of Deputies is scheduled for later this month. It is fair to assume that the proposed effective date for the bill to become law can be kept and – let us hope – will not be further postponed.
Parliamentary press No. 1163, government bill for an Act on the Digital Transformation of Healthcare