What role do the social insurers play in financing and implementing digital infrastructures in healthcare?

ST/MS – 11/2017

‘Digital Health and Social Insurance’ was the topic of an expert round table organised by the European Social Insurance Platform (ESIP) in the European Parliament on 10 October 2017. 


Together with MEP Michał Boni (EPP, Poland), who is a staunch advocate of digitalisation in healthcare, experts discussed the potential benefits of the digital transformation and the role of the social insurers in financing and implementing digital infrastructures in health systems.  

Perspectives of the health insurers

A panel of experts from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands discussed their various national experiences and perspectives. 


Germany’s National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds gave a presentation on the introduction of Telematics Infrastructure in Germany. The main reasons for its implementation being delayed were stated as the high standards for data security in Germany and long decision-making processes 

Austria’s Main Association of Social Security Institutions talked about a project for introducing electronic health records (ELGA). This allows anyone insured in the Austrian health care system to access test results and prescriptions online. This means that doctors, hospitals and patients are networked with one another. 


The representative from the Dutch National Health Care Institute reminded participants that not every innovation automatically means an improvement in health care. Although digitalisation raises high expectations, the resulting projects are often poorly implemented. He also warned that the personalisation of healthcare should not result in the solidarity principle being abandoned.  

Perspectives of EU policy makers, doctors and industry

In a second forum, a representative of the Estonian Ministry of Health explained that the current Estonian Presidency of the Council would like to help Member States advance digitalisation. Estonia referred to extensive digitalisation in public administration and encouraged other social insurance institutions to do the same. 


The representative from the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) emphasised that digitalisation could help avoid duplication of work and improve the exchange of expert knowledge. However, digital solutions should only supplement the work of healthcare providers. 


A representative from Philips stated that the company wants to help reduce costs in the healthcare sector and enable better networking between different stakeholders. This requires clear rules in terms of data management and digital infrastructure. 


The European Commission summed up that social insurers have more influence on the digitalisation of healthcare than other organisations and they should actively drive change. Although the Member States have similar problems, they have sought national rather than European solutions. 


In closing, there was consensus that the EU should set a legislative framework for data protection standards, standards for health technologies and interoperability. 


The ESIP press release on the event can be viewed here.