FAQ: This is what patients need to know about e-prescription
In some medical practices and pharmacies in the Berlin-Brandenburg testing area, patients have been able to show an electronic prescription on their smartphone instead of the old paper-based prescription since the beginning of July. The planned start of the e-prescription across Germany was in fact on January 1, 2022.
“For the patient, we see the main advantages of the e-prescription,” says Sabine Walter, health law advisor at the Consumer Advice Center in North Rhine-Westphalia. “The patient survives a journey.” The testing phase will show where adjustments may be needed, according to the consumer attorney.
Where and when will the electronic prescription be available?
The e-prescription will start in Berlin and Brandenburg on July 1, 2021. “In this so-called focal area, there are about 50 medical practices and 120 pharmacies that test and evaluate e-prescription,” said Gabriel Regina Overwenning, president of the Federal Association of German Pharmacists’ Associations (ABDA). That’s about ten pharmacies in the area. At participating practices, patients can choose to receive their prescription or paperwork.
It was planned to make electronic prescription mandatory for all those with statutory health insurance and all doctors in Germany from January 1, 2022. However, the start signal was postponed shortly before the start of the year.
Now “the pilot and the pilot process are scheduled to continue gradually and expand in the coming weeks.” The new date on which the commitment will become effective has not yet been determined.
What about privately insured people?
The blue prescription for privately insured persons will still be available in paper form even after the electronic prescription has been submitted. “People with private insurance should have access to electronic prescriptions in the future,” says Walter, a consumer advocate. According to ABDA, user-friendly billing concepts are still being developed here. Currently, privately insured people have to pay up front at the pharmacy and then settle the prescription with their health insurance company.
The situation is similar when people with statutory health insurance receive alternative medicines that do not require a prescription. Some of these may be submitted later to the health insurance company. Here, too, doctors continue to issue the green leafy prescription.
How does the e-prescription work?
If you have a smartphone, you have to first download the free e-prescription app. The application was developed by Gematik, which is responsible for Germany’s telecommunications infrastructure. The Federal Ministry of Health is the main shareholder in this company.
If you have the app on your smartphone, the doctor no longer prescribes a specific drug on paper, but digitally. “You get a special code on your mobile app,” explains Walter, a consumer advocate. You can show it yourself at the pharmacy or you can send it to someone to deliver the medicine to you. For all this to work, the smartphone must support the NFC transfer standard and have at least iOS 12 or Android 6 operating system, Gematik explains.
An electronic health card with NFC functionality is also required. This can be seen from the six-digit access number under the colors of Germany on the map. You also need the card’s PIN. If you do not have a PIN, ask your health insurance company.
If you can’t log into the app with your health card – either because your smartphone doesn’t meet the requirements or you don’t have the card’s PIN on hand – you can use it only in a reduced form: To scan the prescription code from the printout at the doctor’s office, use and save In the application and present it to the pharmacy on your smartphone. The added value of this functionality alone is rather weak.
It is useful to know in general: electronic prescriptions can also be replaced in mail-order pharmacies. Billing is done as before: directly between the pharmacy and the statutory health insurance company.
What do I do if I don’t have a smartphone?
The code is then practically printed on paper – this option is still available and is also necessary if you have the app but are not registered there with your health card and therefore you have to scan the code as described above.
The code printed at the pharmacy can be read just like the digital code. So if you don’t have a smartphone, you won’t be left out.
What advantages should an e-prescription bring to me?
Ideally, it should save you a lot of work. “Basically, a patient can go home or work from the doctor, look up a pharmacy in the app and make a non-committal inquiry about whether the drug is available,” Walter explains. As a patient, you have the option to order only if medication is available.
If the pharmacy offers courier service, they may bring the medicine to you in the evening. The consumer advocate expects messaging services from pharmacies with e-prescriptions to become more established.
Anyone who needs a follow-up prescription, for example in the case of chronic diseases, can avoid going to the doctor with the electronic prescription. If the doctor knows the patient and their medical history, all it takes is a phone call. “If someone is not doing well or doesn’t want to leave the house, a doctor can prescribe medication in one call and send an electronic prescription,” says ABDA President Overwiening.
Additionally, information about intake and dosage as well as medication plan can be stored on the app. According to consumer advocate Wolter, the desired effect of this is: “The pharmacist sees the medications the patient is already taking and notes if there is something intolerable.”