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What is the ePA – and when and where do I get one?

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If you enter ePA in the Google search engine, there are several hits. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is there. In addition, the website of the European Patent Office, also EPO for short. And then there is EPa, the one-man package for catering in the Bundeswehr. So what is the ePA?

Only a little further down does the hit appear that is exciting and will become important for all health insured persons this year: ePA (elektronische Patientenakte) abbreviation for the new electronic patient record in Germany. All health insurances have had to offer this ePA to their insured persons since January.

ePA (elektronische Patientenakte) Summary

But how does this new ePA, electronic patient record in Germany work? Who stores what in it? Is the data safe? How do I get it myself? And can I finally forget about looking for my vaccination certificate on paper? And what’s the benefit for me?

Basically, the following applies: Patients can have their data saved in the electronic patient file. This includes findings, diagnoses, therapeutic measures, medication plans, allergies and vaccinations.

For many patients, the ePA not only saves a lot of paperwork. It can also ensure that duplicate examinations (e.g. X-rays, blood tests) are avoided because they are stored in the ePA. In the event of an accident, for example, every doctor knows immediately who to notify in an emergency and whether a patient has allergies.

What exactly is the ePA?

epa
So far, patients have only received their data from their doctor upon request and then only in part

The electronic patient record is a collection of data from your medical history.

It can save everything that your doctors have about you in their records – from the family doctor as well as from the dentist or from the hospital. Your attending physician will hold the data in the form of a file. They can be viewed via an app from your health insurance company and via a website. The data will not be saved on the insurance card!

So far, patients have only received their data from their doctor upon request and then only in part.

How long has the ePA existed and why don’t I have one yet?

epa
This year, patients will have the right to view all of the data stored about them

The ePA has existed since January 1, 2021. Most patients do not yet have any, because: First of all, there is an introductory and test phase by the Federal Ministry of Health. Selected doctors and hospitals in Berlin and Westphalia-Lippe take part.

Only in the second quarter of this year are all 200,000 resident doctors and pharmacies to be activated gradually. From the first of July, doctors and pharmacies must provide access to patient files.

► The use remains voluntary for the time being.

Can I also apply for my ePA NOW?

Yes, many health insurance companies (DAK, Barmer, TK, etc.) already offer corresponding apps for Android or iOS; insured persons can find the offers on the health insurance company’s website. However, it makes sense to register initially for patients who live in the areas of the first test phase.

Which data are stored?

The data in the ePA can include:

  • Treatment and therapy reports from your doctors
  • Findings and diagnoses
  • Laboratory results
  • Doctor’s letters
  • Instructions for medication
  • Emergency data (allergies, blood group, etc.)
  • Vaccination certificate
  • Events

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Does everyone have to have an ePA?

epa
Everything that the doctor stores electronically about patients will also be found in the ePA

Everyone who has health insurance – whether statutory or private – has a right to an ePA from July 1st, 2021. However, nobody is obliged to use this offer.

How do I get an ePA and the app?

Patients get access through their health insurance.

In order for the ePA to fill up with your data, all German doctors, general practitioners and dentists should be connected to the ePA procedure in the middle of the year. By the end of the year at the latest, everyone should be prepared for the ePA and their patient data should be available accordingly. Patients can then view this data via the app of their health insurance company.

Who can see my data?

Patients determine who has access to your information. You can select this within the ePA.

The access rights can also be granted for a limited period of time, for example if you only want to allow a specialist to look into the treatment period.

Are my details safe?

Yes. The data exchange between the digital patient file and external bodies such as doctors or pharmacists is encrypted along the entire data path.

With so-called end-to-end encryption, the information can only be read on the devices of the users involved. Attempting to intercept data in transit would not be successful. You would not let yourself be processed (read) any further.

The Federal Ministry of Health guarantees the highest level of security for the data stored in the ePA.

Too little self-determination on the part of patients – that’s what critics say

Privacy advocates were the first and loudest to criticize the EPR.

Main point: The patients could determine who gets access to the data, but not yet which ones and for how long. For example, where it may be appropriate to inform the practice of one finding, another may not be made public. That doesn’t work at the moment.

The motto is: all or nothing!

Privacy advocates are calling for patients to be able to define in greater detail what from their files can be shared with whom.

According to the Federal Data Protection Officer Ulrich Kelber, it cannot be that a dentist can see his patient’s findings from the psychiatrist. At the current stage, the digital patient file even violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However: The servers on which all patient data are centrally stored are located in Germany and are subject to European data protection regulations.

Only after completion of the introductory and test phase (from July 1, 2021) will the step-by-step care of all patients in Germany begin with access to the EPR. Then users also get full access and the option to specifically release data.

Industry experts even assume that patients will probably only have full access to their data at the beginning of 2022.

Is there now also an electronic vaccination certificate?

The electronic vaccination pass (e-vaccination pass) is not yet available. But it will be part of the ePA from 2022.

As soon as the e-vaccination card is set up, it does not differ from the previous paper version. It shows all vaccinations carried out and also the dates for future ones. The advantage: it can no longer be relocated or forgotten. Entries are made directly by the vaccination practice. In addition, there is a better overview, also of necessary follow-up vaccinations. Patients can also set automatic reminders in the e-vaccination card.

As with the ePA, the use of the digital vaccination card is initially voluntary.

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