E-prescription (electronic prescription): Medicines via app

Since September 1, 2022, the e-prescription has been used on a test basis in individual regions of Germany. After the end of the three-month test period, use is to be gradually extended to the whole of Germany. The plan is to introduce the e-prescription throughout Germany by spring 2023. However, many people still have unanswered questions. Because how exactly does the e-prescription work, which app is required for use and what are the advantages and disadvantages associated with it? We explain that in this article.

What is an e-prescription and how does it work?

E-Rezept (sometimes spelled eRezept) stands for “Electronic Prescription”. The name already says what the e-prescription is about, namely an electronic alternative to the classic paper-based prescription.

The doctor can electronically issue and sign the prescription, for example for a medication. With the help of a special smartphone app, the prescription can then be redeemed in a pharmacy.

The e-prescription is currently only designed for the prescription of medicines. In the future there will also be electronic solutions for other medical fields, for example for aids and remedies or referrals to specialist medical practices.

When will the e-prescription become mandatory?

From September 2022, all pharmacies in Germany should be able to process e-prescriptions. The e-prescription will probably be mandatory from spring 2023. Then all medical practices for people with statutory health insurance should only use this form of prescription. However, there is no fixed date yet. Originally, the obligation should exist from January 2023. However, this date has been postponed.

Which app and which technical requirements are required?

If you want to use the electronic prescription, you have to install the official app on your smartphone. This is called  “The E-Prescription”.  In order to be able to use the app afterwards, however, a few requirements must be met.

First of all, your own health card must have an NFC function. NFC stands for  “Near Field Communication” . This is a wireless form of data transmission. Similar to many EC cards, many newer health cards already have this function. If your own card does not have this, you can request a corresponding card from the health insurance company. The most common way to tell if a card has NFC functionality is to see a symbol with multiple curved lines that spread out from one point in one direction.

To log into the app, you also need the six-digit  CAN number associated with the NFC function  and a  PIN.  The CAN number is printed on NFC-enabled cards, the PIN can be obtained from the health insurance company.

What are the benefits?

The e-prescription offers several advantages:

  • It is possible to receive an electronic prescription after attending a digital consultation
  • There is no need to personally pick up follow-up prescriptions from the doctor’s practice if an appointment in the quarter has already been made in the practice
  • direct forwarding of the e-prescription to the pharmacy or mail-order pharmacy
  • Avoidance of unnecessary trips, since a drug that is not in stock can be ordered easily before going to the pharmacy in person
  • Adding profiles for family members (e.g. children) is possible
  • easier detection of interactions, as the app can create links between different drugs
  • integrated reminder function for taking medication

What are the disadvantages of the e-prescription?

Experts currently see the high hurdles when registering in the app as a disadvantage. As already mentioned, you need an NFC-enabled health card. In order to be able to use the NFC function, a PIN is required, which must be requested from the respective health insurance company. If this PIN is not yet available, users must prove their identity to their health insurance company. Each health insurance company determines how this can be done.

What to do if you can’t use the app?

An NFC-enabled health card can be requested from the health insurance company at any time. If you do not meet other requirements for use, for example because you do not have a smartphone, the electronic prescription can also be printed out in the doctor’s office. However, the advantages of the e-prescription (e.g. no need to appear in person at the doctor’s office or direct transmission to the pharmacy) then no longer apply.

Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to send the recipe by email for data protection reasons.

What is the status of private prescriptions?

There is currently no app for people with private health insurance. However, this is currently under development.

How secure is the data?

The data is encrypted and stored on servers of the so-called telematics infrastructure – this is a digital platform for healthcare. To put it simply, these servers are powerful computers and are located in a secure data center.

The data in the prescription can only be viewed by the signing doctor and the specialist staff in the selected pharmacy. After 100 days, the data will be automatically deleted. However, users can also delete their data independently earlier.

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