The ability to move freely between Member States is one very concrete outcome of greater union in Europe. But with mobility comes potential insecurity. What happens if I get sick on holidays in Italy? Is insurance reciprocal when I work abroad in the EU? How is the hospital bill processed?
The little blue European Health Insurance Card (eye-readable EHIC), valid since June 2004, takes the worry out of inter-European travel and work assignments, replacing a number of different forms that needed to be carried while on the move, such as the E111 and E110. This plastic card legally(1) entitles insured citizens from EU/EFTA countries to equivalent (unplanned) healthcare while abroad in any of the other 27 Member States or four EFTA countries. This means the eye-readable EHIC has been implemented in a total of 31 countries Europe-wide. Quite an achievement already!
“But this is all back-story to the challenging task we now face of digitising the process,” says Noël Nader, director for international areas at GIE Sesame-Vitale in France who heads a consortium of Commission-funded partners now deploying ICT solutions to simplify and improve EHIC.
As the most advanced pan-European project in this field, NETCARDS For eEHIC was mandated by the European Commission to implement this in a “step-wise” fashion. The EU’s executive called for a card “which can be electronically read [on] the premises of the healthcare providers (general practitioners, pharmacists, hospitals, dentists, and other health related practitioners) equipped with the appropriate card reader (off the shelf) and whose validity can, under appropriate interoperability conditions and depending [on] the Member States, be verified on-line.”(2)Leading the cry
Principal among the challenges, Nader told ICT Results ahead of NETC@RDS' appearance at the e-Challenges conference (24-26 October), is convincing Member States to resist rolling out their own version of the health insurance cards until a more systematic approach and technologies can be put in place across the bloc.
For example, Germany, France, Austria and Slovenia already have insurance cards with embedded microchips, or ‘smart cards’, containing the holder’s health insurance data. Others are in various stages of developing them. A few are taking the ‘wait and see’ approach.
It could be easy to put a pan-European scheme like e-EHIC into the ‘too-difficult’ basket, suggests Nader, “but that would be missing a milestone opportunity to harness the benefits of ICT in this very important field – and one that is so critical to Europe’s internal market.”
So the consortium of 26 partners – made up of health insurance organisations, hospital associations, regional governments, research institutions, industrial sponsors, and relevant standards bodies and other authorities – came up with scenarios of varying degrees of on- and offline technology allowing progressive migration of different countries to e-EHIC.
The scenarios range from using chip cards, data readers and security solutions all handled off-line; to a combination of chip cards with network services handling data and authentication online; to all data managed online with no chip cards; to data being read by machines or optically scanned from the eye-readable EHIC.
It is horses for courses. But the underlying idea is to develop a unified workstation capable of processing/reading different chip cards and/or transferring data from a remote health insurance data server over a secure extranet link.
Thanks to its pilot testing, consultation and careful assessment of the legal basis for pan-European health services, NETC@RDS For eEHIC learnt that it would be a “waste [of] effort and credibility” to invest in the notion of an “all-embracing gigantic deployment scheme [for eEHIC]”.
The best solution, they note, is to focus on card-reading technology and systems that guarantee interoperability wherever deployed in Europe; a gradual migration to full-scale network functionality (server and user side) to access health insurance databases remotely.
Tests in Greece during the Olympic Games in 2004, and later in Germany for the Football World Cup in 2006, showed the clear benefits of eEHIC systems for healthcare providers, health insurance providers and patients – less administration, better reliability and security of data with simpler and faster procedures.Flight control for health insurance?
In fact, Nader sees other parallels with the skies. He says putting together plausible and sustainable e-health systems and technologies Europe-wide is a bit like managing Airbus, and that the final body proposed to oversee eEHIC could even work something like IATA, the air traffic authority.
There is still a lot of air-miles to cover in the coming years and it is sometimes hard to predict how the political winds might shift, but NETC@RDS For eEHIC is confident that it can get all the actors and technologies onboard to deliver a reliable system of systems using on- and offline methods befitting the different situations in different European countries.Notes:
(2) CEN/ISSS workshop on interoperability of eEHIC (WS/eEHIC), Adopted Business Plan, version 1.0
Christian Nielsen | alfa
Touchscreens go 3D with buttons that pulsate and vibrate under your fingertips
14.03.2019 | Universität des Saarlandes
EU project CALADAN set to reduce manufacturing cost of Terabit/s capable optical transceivers
11.03.2019 | IHP - Leibniz-Institut für innovative Mikroelektronik
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock
Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
20.03.2019 | Life Sciences
20.03.2019 | Life Sciences
20.03.2019 | Trade Fair News