ICW provides LifeSensor technology for scientific study and partners in national Bulgarian EHC pilot project

Walldorf 23 August 2007BARMER, Germany's largest health insurance provider, starts evaluating the effects of the personal health record on the health behaviour and the situation for the provision of health care to its insured as part of a Germany-wide research study. The eHealth specialist InterComponentWare AG (ICW) was chosen as technology partner, which is providing the web-based personal health record LifeSensor for the three-year research study. In turn, Bulgaria is issuing its first electronic health cards as part of the pilot project of the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). The pilot project for the nationwide introduction of an electronic health card was launched in February 2007 and is implemented by ICW in co-operation with Cisco and Kontrax.

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A research working group led by Dr. med. Hanna Kirchner is responsible for the design and execution of the BARMER project. An interdisciplinary scientific advisory board is providing support for the research study. As part of the research study, BARMER enables its insured to use the personal health record.

With the LifeSensor personal health record, BARMER is offering all its insured an innovative instrument that enables them to actively manage and control their health themselves. BARMER customers can thus access information relevant to their health on-line at any time. They will thus profit much sooner from new applications, which otherwise would not be available until after the official deployment of the electronic health card.

For BARMER, data privacy and security are top priority in the research study. The health insurance provider will not have any access to the health records of the insured. The insured alone determine who has access to their health data. Physicians, pharmacists, clinics, and other providers of health services can not access the information in the file or add to the medical information until the user grants access. In this way, treatment can be adapted optimally to the health status of the insured.

Furthermore, the insured can utilize special BARMER consulting and health care offerings, such as the health telephone, from directly within their personal health record. That facilitates optimum customer care as well as more purposefully designed individual health care. Starting in the fall of 2007, the personal health record is expected to be available to all interested BARMER insured.

Birgit Fischer, deputy chairperson of the managing board at BARMER stated about the research study: "The insured themselves can best evaluate the advantages and benefits of a personal health record and provide tips for its practical use. BARMER wants to expand what has until now been mostly a technical discussion to include questions of application from the perspective of insured and patients and to offer the BARMER insured an opportunity to participate."

The chairman of the ICW managing board, Peter Reuschel, added: "We are pleased that we have this opportunity to provide the health record technology for a research study of this scope. Over seven million BARMER insured then have an opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of a personal health record. The web-based BARMER personal health record based on our LifeSensor technology is finally bringing the right of informational self-determination within the reach of insured and patients."

Starting September, 1000 citizens from the town of Slivnitza and the village Aldomirovzi - both some 30 kilometers away from Sofia in Bulgaria - will receive their personal electronic health cards. Most of the cards will be handed out to chronically ill patients by their general practitioners (GPs) at their regular monthly doctor's visits. The patients involved in the project were nominated by their physicians.

Each electronic health card is equipped with a microprocessor chip that stores the personal data of the patient, the issuer and card number as well as a security certificate. With this information, the patient's insurance status and his/her assignment to a General Practitioner can automatically be checked in the project. In addition, e-prescriptions for medications covered by the Bulgarian health insurance fund will be recorded on the chip.

Currently, the system is tested in the field and the participating physicians and pharmacists are trained by specialists from ICW and Kontrax. After the tests and trainings, the pilot project will go live and the first e-prescriptions will be issued and filled in Bulgaria.

In the first six months since the official start of the project, the infrastructure was built and specific software solutions necessary for its operation were developed. All physician practices and pharmacies in Slivnitza, as well as the NHIF were connected with a reliable and secure private network. The network communication devices, firewalls and IP phone communications were provided by Cisco.

ICW, the project's main system integrator, has adapted its software solutions that are already used in Germany and Austria to the special requirements of the Bulgarian health system. ICW's Software Development Kit (SDK) was used to enable the seamless and easy integration between the electronic health card system and the software in the GP offices and pharmacies. Thus, data exchange between the specialized software "Hippocrates" of Kontrax, the pharmacy information systems "Pharmacy Expert" of Libra Inc., and "Pharma Star" of AS Systems was enabled using ICW eHealth infrastructure solutions.

The pilot project for the Bulgarian electronic health card was initiated by the Ministry of Health and the NHIF. Its realization was awarded to ICW in partnership with Cisco and Kontrax. InterComponentWare AG is an international eHealth specialist with locations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the USA, and Bulgaria. Its solutions for networking the various participants in the health care system achieve a sustained improvement in process-oriented communication and data integrity - and thus the quality of medical care.

Among other things, ICW develops and markets software and hardware components for the health care IT infrastructure for electronic health cards, the personal health record LifeSensor, and network solutions for clinics and physicians in private practice. As part of the bIT4health consortium, ICW has provided government consulting services for the deployment of the electronic health card in Germany, is involved in the Austrian eCard project, and has won the pilot project for the national electronic health card in Bulgaria. More related company news can be found in the VMW February 2007 article NHIF assigns pilot project for Bulgarian Electronic Health Card to ICW and Cisco.


Leslie Versweyveld

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