The problems surrounding the long-awaited e-prescription do not seem to be abating. Now data protection experts in Schleswig-Holstein are putting a spoke in doctors’ wheel. Accordingly, sending electronic prescriptions should only be permitted with appropriate encryption.
End-to-end encryption is a prerequisite for e-prescription
Germany is still a developing country in many aspects of digitization. This is particularly evident in the case of e-prescription. In the future, e-prescription is expected to replace the old-fashioned-looking little piece of paper, which can only be obtained from a doctor in person. Actually, the start for the modern form of medication prescription was planned for September 1, 2022. From it now however at least in Schleswig-Holstein nothing becomes. Thus the data protection commissioner of the Land has for the time being forbidden a forwarding of e-prescriptions. In a letter to the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Marit Hansen gave insufficient encryption as the reason. In her view, since the data in question was medical data, the digital prescriptions could not be sent by e-mail without further ado. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires so-called end-to-end encryption for such sensitive data.
Doctors’ association recalled
The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of Schleswig-Holstein reacted promptly. Thus one contacted in the context of a letter the practicing physicians and pointed these out not to use the E-prescription yet. And apparently Hansen, as data protection commissioner, would like to see even more far-reaching protection. For example, she is considering making the QR code in the e-prescription accessible only with the help of a personal password. Of course, this raises the question of whether it is not more important for patients to receive prescriptions in electronic form than to wait another few months for better encryption. From the perspective of the data protection commissioners, however, the insured have no say in this area. Rather, data protection rights are a duty of care on the part of the state, which simply must be given.
Braked out short of the mark
In view of the simplified bureaucracy that many physicians had hoped for with the introduction of the e-prescription, the recent slamming on the brakes seems like a low blow. Particularly if one considers the history of the electronic prescription once before eyes, one can understand the frustration on sides of the medical profession quite. After all, the e-prescription was supposed to start as early as January 1, 2022. However, the launch was delayed because the limits of digitization were again reached. Should the e-prescription finally be available throughout Germany, however, people without a suitable app or even Internet access need not worry. The doctor will simply be able to print out the essential QR code for them. In any case, electronic prescriptions will probably be an exclusive matter for the time being. A paperless e-prescription will probably only be possible for holders of a modern health card with a suitable NFC chip and PIN encryption.