Launch of Cepco Medical Portal holds promise of patient empowerment via the Internet

Bad Hofgastein 27 September 2000Cepco Holding AG, an Israel-German-Swiss company designed the Cepco Medical Portal which enables each patient worldwide to set up an own Personal Medical Archive (PMA) on the Internet. The patient decides where the actual files should be stored, whether at his private doctor's office, at the hospital, at the health fund, or at a neutral trust archive. In the first phase of operations, Cepco will invest some $200 million in Europe and in the U.S. Up to 10 million members are expected to join this novel patient-based PMA until 2005. Dr. Günter Pollanz, who is chairman of Cepco Holding AG and CEO of Medlink Israel, introduced the patient service to the audience at the European Health Forum Gastein 2000.

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According to Dr. Pollanz, health systems are sick. To his opinion, the costs that are caused by outdated administrative practices and over-aged infrastructure could be avoided by using modern management methods and process-oriented equipment. Improved information management would not only empower patients and transform patient power into political power, but it is equally expected to save some 20 percent of public health expenditures. Cepco's Medical Platform provides the technical solution, as Dr. Pollanz said.

Health care represents about 20 percent of the gross national product (GNP), rising to some 1.4 trillion USD in the United States. Approximately the same euro amount can be assumed for the European Union. Looking at the results of congresses and studies, the helplessness of health policy makers becomes apparent. "Administrative practices of health care providers are mired in their cameralistic traditions", Dr. Pollanz said, "dealing solely with the cost-side of their services. This would cause any other industry to go bankrupt. The demand for a cost-efficiency calculation in health care is therefore imperative."

"While medical technology has developed rapidly", Dr. Pollanz continued, "the infrastructure is outdated and 80 percent of European hospitals are over-aged. Improvements through process-oriented buildings and equipment could well out-balance financial investments." He gave the following example of inefficient administrative practise. Medical doctors in Germany send 3000 different accounting documents to the Association of Panel Doctors (KV) which results in a very low productivity of German health care employees. Neither KV, nor any other institution, has the management authority to change this.

All medical documents are the patient's private property. European citizens are educated, knowledgeable, and are able to take care of themselves. They take responsibility for tax payments, bank accounts, and court rulings, and have the right to manage their medical documents. But does reality match this vision, Dr. Pollanz asked himself. Why can citizens not manage their own health data? In the end, it is their money which they provide by way of tax payments, which is then spent. Informing patients on the types and quality of services available, alternative treatments, costs, and other related factors should be a matter of course, just as free choice between options should be.

The United States are showing the way ahead. Acknowledging that some 17 percent of GNP spent on health care constitutes a political power, President Clinton announced in clear, political statement that he would empower every patient to take care of the most precious good which he has, namely health. The Patient Rights Act of November 1999, which was enacted last February, states: "Every patient has the right to view all his patient records and to obtain a copy". New US regulations oblige health care providers to furnish digital services to the patient and to provide these instantly. Records stand at the patient's disposal via the Internet or on paper; not on request, but as proof for the services rendered, upon release from the hospital.

By end 2002, all health care providers must be using standard software and 400 standardised documents for every single case. The revolution is under way, according to Dr. Pollanz. Making patients rights to full information and access to their medical data reality, means that the appropriate information management systems need to be in place. If these become available and can eventually be imposed upon every health care provider, hospital, and doctor, then patients will be empowered to manage all their medical information by themselves. However, studies have found that national public health care systems will not be able to use compatible computer systems and standard documentation before 2025.

Cepco provides an affordable and efficient solution now. Cepco's Personal Medical Archive (PMA) solution will enable doctors to make medical records available to patients, and hospital emergency rooms will be able to retrieve the patient's medical history through the Internet within a couple of seconds. The records include information such as X-rays, sonographs, videos, or 3D images. Having paid a flat rate of $10.00 per year, the patient can access his file from any computer or mobile phone connected to the Internet for an access fee of $1.00 per call/document. Governments will be able to exercise controlling influence on matters concerning data security, privacy, etc.

To ensure that the technology can be utilised all around the world, Cepco is applying Microsoft Explorer as basis configuration for the Internet access. This tool is used in sixty languages and can communicate in any of these languages. As of June 2001, Cepco shall be employing the new M-Explorer (M for Mobile Phone), which will be used by Vodaphone mobile phones and most probably be widely employed by all UMTS mobile phones soon. Health funds as well as health insurers, mobile phone providers, and credit card organisations will offer this service to their clients.

Consumer organisations will also join the marketing channel. Dr. Pollanz is convinced that the use of Cepco technology will have a dramatic impact on public health care performance. It is estimated that using such new, modern technologies, up to 20 percent of governmental health care expenditures can be saved. In Europe, this would save 250 billion euro, a considerable amount which should make patient power a political power in Europe as well.


Leslie Versweyveld

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