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Swiss parliament agree compromise eHealth strategy

After extensive political wrangling the Swiss Bundesrat – the federal parliament – has endorsed a national eHealth strategy, based on the implementation of electronic medical records by 2015.

The adoption of the 58-page strategy was severely delayed due to protracted power struggles both between the federal and the regional governments and between regional governments and health professionals.

What is now on the agenda is a compromise which leaves much room for interpretation and tries not to hurt anybody. “It is salami slicing, but it is the optimum that we were able to reach”, says Adrian Schmidt, project manager at the “Bundesamt für Gesundheitswesen” (BAG).

The BAG is the national ministry of health in Switzerland. It has, however, very limited powers due to the heavily federal structure of the country. The Swiss eHealth strategy has two main points: first, it gives a somewhat vague roadmap for the nationwide implementation of regional EMRs. In addition, it suggests that the objective should be to build up a web-based nationwide electronic health platform by the year 2012, with the aim of providing high-quality medical information to the public.

The Swiss eHealth strategy says that EMRs, which are called “patient dossiers” in Switzerland, should be available for all citizens by the year 2015. These EMRs will be patient-centred, but no details are given of how this will work in practice. The vision appears to be a smartcard-based system analogous to what is planned or being implemented in France, Germany and Austria.