Information technology

Electronic health card pilot launched in Bulgaria

22 October 2007

Sofia/Slivnitza, Bulgaria. A pilot project to test the Bulgarian electronic health card (ecard) was launched earlier this month with the issuing of the first electronic prescription. The event was presided over by the Bulgarian Minister of Health, Professor Radoslav Gajdarski, and the Minister of Public Administration and Administrative Reform, Dr Nikolay Vassilev.

The pilot involves seven physicians, four pharmacies and 1,000 patients. It will test the secure identification and authentication procedures, as well as the issuing and dispensing of electronic prescriptions. The ecard system introduces a secure communications infrastructure that can later be upgraded to access and exchange medical information using personal health records.

Dr Eleonora Popova, the first general practitioner to use the new system said: “The new ecard system significantly reduces our administrative work. The electronic prescriptions are issued very quickly, are always legible and faultless, and thus we have more time to care for our patients.”

Electronic prescriptions are generated by the system after the diagnosis and the medication are entered by the attending physician. For maximum security and reliability, the physician has to sign the prescription electronically using a health professional card and a PIN.

At the pharmacy, both the pharmacist’s and patient’s cards are inserted into a card reader. After this simple yet secure authentication procedure, the e-prescription is automatically opened. When the prescribed drug is given to the patient, the pharmacist certifies the dispensation of the medication by simply entering a PIN code.

Diana Dimitrova, owner of the pharmacy that served the first patient with an e-prescription explains: ”With the new ecard, we can speed up our service. Currently, we need up to three hours per day to do our reports to the National Health Insurance Fund. With e-prescriptions, this information is generated automatically when the medication is dispensed.”

All data is transmitted through a special security device, the ICW Box , developed jointly by InterComponentWare (ICW) and Cisco. The ICW Box encrypts the information that is then transmitted via a virtual private network (VPN). A special software development kit enables software applications that are already in use in GP’s office and at pharmacies to be easily connected to the new ecard system.

“With today’s start of the pilot for the national electronic health card, Bulgaria leaps to the fore amongst nations adopting ehealth solutions,” says Peter Reuschel, CEO of InterComponentWare (ICW), main contractor of the pilot project.

The system will be evaluated over the next three months. All 1,000 patients who are included in the project will use their ecard at their GPs and in the pharmacies.

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