The Digi­tal Care Act: first rea­ding in Fede­ral Parliament

The Digi­tal Care Act (PDF) had its first rea­ding in Ger­man Par­lia­ment on 27 Sep­tem­ber 2019, fol­lo­wed by fur­ther deli­be­ra­ti­ons in the Com­mit­tees. The goal of the Act is to pro­mo­te digi­tiza­ti­on in the health care sec­tor, e.g. by implementing:

  • prescription-based health apps
  • online video consultations
  • man­da­to­ry inte­gra­ti­on of phar­maci­es and hos­pi­tals into the tele­ma­tics infrastructure
  • intro­duc­tion of elec­tro­nic pre­scrip­ti­ons for the­ra­peu­tic reme­dies and aids
  • hig­her fees for elec­tro­nic physician’s letters

Neces­sa­ry chan­ges in terms of data pro­tec­tion law, e.g. for the digi­tal pati­ent file, are to be cover­ed in a sepa­ra­te sta­tu­te, and not in the Digi­tal Care Act.

Hig­her requi­re­ments for medi­cal professionals

The Digi­tal Care Act aims to make health care bet­ter through digi­tiza­ti­on and by con­nec­ting the various actors in the health care sec­tor.  To this end, the Act requi­res actors in the health care sec­tor to enga­ge in inten­si­ve coope­ra­ti­on in order to crea­te an impro­ved digi­tal infra­struc­tu­re. For exam­p­le, phar­maci­es and hos­pi­tals will be requi­red to con­nect to the tele­ma­tics infra­struc­tu­re (TI) by 1 Janu­ary 2021 at the latest. Mid­wi­ves, phy­si­cal the­ra­pists and nur­sing and reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on faci­li­ties will have the opti­on of con­nec­ting to the TI vol­un­t­a­ri­ly. Phy­si­ci­ans who still refu­se to con­nect to the TI will have their fees cut by 2.5% as of 1 March 2020 (up from 1% today). Now that elec­tro­nic pre­scrip­ti­ons have been gra­du­al­ly adopted with the Act to Impro­ve Safe­ty in Medi­cinal Pro­ducts and elec­tro­nic cer­ti­fi­ca­tes of disa­bi­li­ty have been intro­du­ced upon pre­sen­ta­ti­on of the 3rd Bureau­cra­cy Reli­ef Act, the Digi­tal Care Act will enable elec­tro­nic pre­scrip­ti­ons for the­ra­peu­tic reme­dies and aids in the future.

Elec­tro­nic pre­scrip­ti­ons for the­ra­peu­tic reme­dies and aids

Accep­ting digi­tal pre­scrip­ti­ons, which is to take place through the TI in the long run, requi­res a way to veri­fy the iden­ti­ty of home health care pro­vi­ders so that they can access the TI.  For this pur­po­se, home health care com­pa­nies and pro­vi­ders will be ente­red into the elec­tro­nic Health Care Pro­fes­sio­nal Regis­ter, which has yet to be estab­lished, and will be issued elec­tro­nic health pro­fes­sio­nal cards (e‑HPCs). Under the E‑Health Act, e‑HPCs had pre­vious­ly been reser­ved for phy­si­ci­ans, den­tists, psych­ia­trists, phy­si­cal the­ra­pists and phar­macists. Like the elec­tro­nic health care card, this card will con­tain a micro­chip which enables authen­ti­ca­ti­on (elec­tro­nic iden­ti­ty veri­fi­ca­ti­on), encryp­ti­on and elec­tro­nic signa­tu­re, exchan­ging data in the TI plan­ned by Gema­tik. Indus­try asso­cia­ti­ons have also pro­po­sed an alter­na­ti­ve accre­di­ta­ti­on pro­ce­du­re through which home health care pro­vi­ders can be accre­di­ted as an insti­tu­ti­on. This pro­ce­du­re can be based on the exis­ting elec­tro­nic card for medi­cal prac­ti­ces and insti­tu­ti­ons (Secu­ri­ty Modu­le Card Type B, or SMC‑B), which allows medi­cal prac­ti­ces and hos­pi­tals to access the TI.


The Digi­tal Care Act takes ano­ther step towards digi­tiza­ti­on of the health care sec­tor in gene­ral, and pati­ent care in par­ti­cu­lar. In the long run, the intro­duc­tion of digi­tal pre­scrip­ti­ons will make health care more effec­ti­ve by eli­mi­na­ting media dis­rup­ti­ons and con­nec­ting health care pro­vi­ders. Howe­ver, it will take some time befo­re the neces­sa­ry steps can be taken to issue elec­tro­nic health pro­fes­sio­nal cards as plan­ned and to con­nect the various actors to the TI, espe­ci­al­ly sin­ce some details are still being deba­ted. Home health care pro­vi­ders should keep an eye on pro­gress with the pro­po­sed accre­di­ta­ti­on pro­ce­du­re and should obtain accre­di­ta­ti­on and con­nect to the TI as soon as pos­si­ble so as not to find them­sel­ves at a com­pe­ti­ti­ve dis­ad­van­ta­ge rela­ti­ve to phar­maci­es which also pro­vi­de medi­cal aids. 


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