Originally, the digital prescription was to become mandatory nationwide in January. With new specifications, the mammoth project is now to be advanced at a faster pace.

After a long stalemate, representatives of the healthcare sector have agreed on the next steps for introducing the e-prescription. From September 1st, pharmacies throughout Germany will be obliged to accept digital prescriptions.

For the time being, however, this obligation does not apply to doctors – a regional tiered model is planned here. As the responsible semi-state company Gematik announced on Wednesday in Berlin, more e-prescriptions are to be issued in Schleswig-Holstein and Westphalia-Lippe from September. From then on, more and more practices and clinics are to be added in a pilot process so that use increases sharply and finally there can be talk of nationwide application.

Introduction step by step

It is also planned that digital prescriptions in these two regions will also become mandatory for practices and clinics from December 2022. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the shareholders of Gematik – in addition to the federal government, also doctors, clinics and health insurance organizations – are satisfied with the pilot introduction and consider it a success. Also in December, the gradual introduction of the e-prescription is to start in six other federal states and the rest in the coming year. This is also subject to change. Which federal states should start in which phase is still open.

Originally, the digital prescription was to become mandatory nationwide in January. The mammoth project was intended to advance the digitization of the healthcare system – instead of pink slips of paper, patients were to receive a code on their smartphone with which they could get the medication they wanted from the pharmacy. If you don’t have the required app or don’t use a smartphone, you get the code printed out on a piece of paper. The e-prescription only applies to those with statutory health insurance and not to those with private health insurance.

The test phase in Berlin-Brandenburg fizzled out

The project did not progress for a long time. A test phase in Berlin-Brandenburg last year fizzled out. After that, a nationwide test phase, in which practices can participate voluntarily, started with a delay. Sharp criticism of the project came from the medical profession, fearing implementation problems in everyday life. There were also reservations among health insurance companies and pharmacists.

In the nationwide test phase that has been running so far, a good 24,000 e-prescriptions have been redeemed in six months. Measured against the approximately 500 million prescriptions that are issued on paper in Germany each year, this is a negligibly small proportion. After all, the curve of digital prescriptions is pointing upwards. The specifications that have now been decided should lead to more speed.