The Telematics Infrastructure: The Backbone of the German e-Health Card

The Telematics Infrastructure: The Backbone of the German e-Health Card

Manuel Zwicker (RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia), Juergen Seitz (DHBW Heidenheim, Heidenheim, Germany) and Nilmini Wickramasinghe (RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, & Epworth Healthcare, Richmond, VIC, Australia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/jhdri.2011100102
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Abstract

Today all OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries are faced with the challenge of escalating healthcare costs. Most are agreed that e-health appears to offer a solution and thus we are witnessing the design, development and implementation of various e-health solutions. This is also true in Germany where the current focus is on the new e-health card concept. It is anticipated that the introduction of this e-health card will totally change the current healthcare system within Germany, primarily because it offers several new functions. Some of these functions are mandatory, while other functions are optional. Such an initiative however, brings with it several advantages and disadvantages. A particularly sensitive aspect here concerns data protection and data security. To address this consideration, the development of a new telematics infrastructure is critical and in some respects the backbone for the e-health card. Thus, the following provides an assessment of the telematics infrastructure behind the German e-health card.
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Healthcare In Germany

Without a doubt healthcare is a very important industry that touches us all. However, over the last 40 years healthcare expenditures have increased at an alarming rate. Between 1970 and 1997 the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on healthcare by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rose from about 5% to approximately 8% (Huber, 1999). Moreover, since 2000, the situation has only worsened with total spending on healthcare rising faster than economic growth, which results in an average ratio of health spending to GDP of 9% in 2008 (OECD, 2010a). Current challenges faced by healthcare such as technological change, longer life expectancy and population ageing will only serve to exacerbate these problems further in the future. Clearly, the growing health spending creates a cost pressure for several countries and Germany is no exception (OECD, 2010a).

Reducing these expenditures as well as offering effective and efficient high quality patient-centric healthcare treatment is becoming a priority globally. It is generally agreed that technology and automation have the potential to reduce these costs (Abd Ghani et al., 2010). In particular, e-health has been identified as a possible panacea and all OECD countries are trying to develop appropriate e-health solutions (Abd Ghani et al., 2010; Huang et al., 2010).

Taking a closer look at Germany, it can be seen that in 2008, Germany had a total expenditure on health (% GDP) of 11%, which was approximately 2% higher than the average ratio of the OECD countries (OECD, 2010a; OECD, 2010b). Concurrently, Germany’s total expenditure on health per capita (US$) was $3,737, whereas the OECD countries spent on average $3,060 per capita (OECD, 2010a; OECD, 2010b). Thus, while Germany is not the country experiencing the worst scenarios with regard to increases in cost expenditure it certainly is facing very real challenges in terms of trying to stem the flow of increasing costs and yet provide quality healthcare to all its citizens.

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