E-prescriptions are now part of everyday healthcare in Greece.
UM – 10/2021
It took some lead time
Electronic prescriptions became mandatory
in Greece as early as 2012. However, this only applied to doctors. Patients
still had to visit the practice to have their prescription printed, stamped and
signed. Resistance from professional groups, data protection concerns,
interface problems with health insurance system and not least, the system’s
overall sluggishness meant that the project took another eight years to become
part of everyday care.
A tailwind from the coronavirus crisis
Electronic prescriptions have been
available in Greece to a significant extent since March 2020. This was based on
a law that included measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and it also
stipulated introduction of paperless prescription of medications. The more
technically demanding transition to paperless referrals for diagnostic tests
was completed shortly afterwards. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst
here and this was the statement by the WHO (World Health Organisation) in a
publication released by its European regional offices ("Greece - Transforming primary healthcare during the
The digital offer is voluntary
Before the crisis, only the providers of
basic medical care were allowed to use the digital tools for select remote
consultations. However, in the wake of the pandemic emergency, regulations
covering the use of telemedicine have been relaxed. The decision as to whether
a personal visit to chronically ill patients was needed was left entirely at
the doctor's discretion during the summer of 2020. The issuing of follow-up
prescriptions without a personal consultation was officially permitted.
Patients are free to avail the service if they want.
The pandemic has changed the motives
The initial reason for introducing the
electronic tools in 2012 was the conviction that electronic monitoring of
doctors' prescription practices in the Greek state health system would save
costs. It was implemented under the impact of the 2010 financial crisis and an
enormous budget deficit. The objective was to reduce unnecessary contacts in
2020 as they were being made under the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The
electronic way became obligatory. Simple as well. The patient receives a code
with each electronic prescription or referral and it can then be used to
retrieve the medication or implement the referral. Pharmacists and laboratories
are given access via an online platform.
The electronic services are well received
The project took time, but it is now a
great success in a healthcare system that had previously been known for its
underfunding, lack of transparency and shadow economy in recent years. Almost
2.4 million insured people in Greece have used the electronic tools between
their launch in March 2020 to July 2021. Paperless prescriptions and referrals
accounted for about one-third of the total during the summer month of
E-prescriptions are no longer a rarity ...
E-prescriptions have been established for
some time in other Member States such as Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the
Netherlands. Germany is in the middle of the introduction process and use of
the app is currently limited to the Berlin/Brandenburg test region.
... cross-border still the exception
Cross-border e-prescriptions can only be
used in very few cases. Greece is also a participant in the voluntary
infrastructure for electronic cross-border health services (eHDSI). The
e-health infrastructure also makes it possible to exchange electronic patient
records in addition to e-prescriptions, e.g. when travelling to other EU
countries. Both services are to be phased in by 2025. So far, only seven countries
are actively participating. Only four Member States are involved in exchanging
e-prescriptions. Greece is not yet one of them. Finland and Estonia kicked
things off in January 2019 with the cross-border exchange of e-prescriptions (click here for more information).