The Swiss-made patient dossier

In international comparisons, medical care in Switzerland ranks at the top. However, digitization of healthcare processes there is just picking up steam. The Electronic Patient Dossier (EPD) is meant to give a major boost to the digital conversion.

Making more of an impact in healthcare

Swisscom Health operates a digital ecosystem for the Swiss healthcare system that is constantly being expanded and integrating new actors. Swisscom supports service providers, insurers, and private individuals with both services and infrastructure and software products. We also help to optimize processes, improve quality of care, and save costs. → swisscom.ch/health

Switzerland would like digitization in the healthcare system to move faster. One possible driver is the EPD, where personal health information such as treatment-related documents from hospitals, medical practices, and other healthcare facilities are collected by the dossier owner. Citizens have the authority to grant access rights to the digital documents in their own EPD.

April 2020: The moment of truth

The decision to introduce the EPD was made in 2015. The technical details and schedule are set down in a federal law with accompanying regulations. Beginning in April 2020, all Swiss hospitals must be capable of storing their patients’ data in EPDs if the patients so desire. Nursing homes and birthing centers must also join the EPD system by 2022. Healthcare facilities that operate in the outpatient setting, such as family practices and therapists, are exempt from the requirement to participate. Starting an EPD is also voluntary for Swiss citizens.

Technical implementation of the EPD is the responsibility of the cantons, which are in charge of healthcare in Switzerland. Many of them have held tenders — singly or jointly with other cantons or individual healthcare facilities — in order to find technology partners to develop the necessary infrastructure. The implementation work is already in full swing in many regions, in part because the regional organizations managing the dossiers (known as reference communities) require certification prior to the official EPD launch in April 2020.

Over half the country relies on Swisscom

Swisscom Health has won many of the tenders mentioned above. At least eleven of Switzerland’s cantons will be using Swisscom Health’s EPD technology. About 4.5 million people live in those regions; more than half of all healthcare facilities are located there.

Infrastructure, integration, access point

The linchpin of Swisscom Health’s EPD infrastructure is the eHealth platform Health Connect. It enables networking of healthcare facilities and transfer of information and documents among them. Building on the modules in the ICW eHealth Suite, Swisscom Health now offers its clients state-of-the-art software that also meets international IHE standards.

Swisscom Health consults with hospitals and other actors before they are integrated into the EPD infrastructure and handles the implementation. Finally, the portal that patients use to set up and manage their dossier also comes from Swisscom Health. The portal is a white-label solution, which allows the reference communities to address the residents of their particular region individually.

Successful EPD pilot operation

Back in 2018, selected departments within the University Hospital Basel (USB) offered their Swiss patients the opportunity to start an EPD. This was part of the Northwest Switzerland EPD Pilot project, in which healthcare facilities in the cantons of Basel-City, Basel-Country, and Solothurn participated. The technology used was supplied by Swisscom Health and proved highly successful.

Develop, integrate, and certify

The time remaining before the official rollout of the EPD in April 2020 will see further development work. For example, the agenda includes integration of a large number of hospitals into the EPD infrastructure. Some of them are still not fully cognizant of the coming technical and organizational challenges; some amount of work remains to be done to raise awareness.

Aside from the technical integration and installations, we can state that some effort is still required as to communication — in terms of both educating citizens and changing the thinking in the hospitals.

Healthcare facilities in Switzerland’s most populous cantons rely on technology from Swisscom Health to implement the Electronic Patient Dossier.

 

The cantons shown in red are already using Swisscom Health’s EPD technology