Digital technologies are gaining importance in healthcare too. Electronic health services such as electronic patient records, online services with high-quality health information and telemedicine applications to assist with remote medical treatment and consultation are just a few examples.
Understanding the importance of such technologies, the federal government and the cantons developed the Swiss eHealth Strategy, which was approved by the Federal Council in 2007. It aims to introduce an electronic patient record and to create a health portal offering information relevant to health. Networking of the stakeholders in the healthcare system will be strengthened by information and communication technologies in order to increase the quality of treatment, patient safety and efficiency.
Following on from this strategy, the Federal Council approved the Swiss eHealth Strategy 2.0 in December 2018. It contains objectives and actions to be taken by the Confederation and the cantons with the aim of introducing the electronic patient record across a broad front and coordinating the digitalisation of areas relating to the electronic patient record during the period 2018-2022. The Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health (CMPH) has also committed to these objectives and actions.
Electronic patient record
The electronic patient record (EPR) is a virtual file designed to improve the quality of medical treatment, treatment processes, patient safety and efficiency in the healthcare system, while at the same time promoting patients’ health literacy.
It provides authorised healthcare professionals who are treating a patient with access to electronically stored data relevant for that patient’s treatment. Examples of the data stored include examination reports, laboratory data and prescriptions.
Patients are also able to upload their own data into their electronic patient record (e.g. information about allergies or emergency contact details), thus making them available to healthcare professionals who are treating them.
Patients and healthcare professionals who wish to access an EPR must have an electronic identity and means of identification issued by a supplier certified in accordance with the Federal Act on the Electronic Patient Record (EPRA).
The introduction of the EPR represents a complex interaction of legal, organisational and technical requirements and numerous stakeholders. According to the EPRA, which has been in force since 15 April 2017, acute-care hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and hospital-based psychiatrists must join a certified community within three years. The deadline for this was thus 15 April 2020, which represents the date on which the EPR was launched. However, delays in the certification procedure meant that it was not possible to introduce the EPR throughout Switzerland in April 2020. It is expected that everyone living in Switzerland will be able to open an EPR by the autumn of 2020.