We are witnessing that in time of epidemic and isolation, we depend on digital technology more than ever. In this article, we will not talk about communication on social networks, in groups which facilitate us to take the epidemic more easily in the social sense or e.g. online education of our children.
We aim to raise awareness of the existence of some digital products already used in healthcare, which we take for granted, and to point out those who could receive full affirmation precisely on these occasions.
Younger inhabitants of Croatia do not even remember the time when a doctor would give them a filled-in red stationery to be looked after, not to get folded, in order to dispense the necessary medicine in the pharmacy. This process has been digitized completely with ePrescription implemented by the Central Health Care Information System of the Republic of Croatia (CEZIH) almost 10 years ago.
In this way, patient safety has been increased by reducing possible errors in prescribing and issuing while saving time and resources (paper, toners). However, another significant advantage of ePrescription comes to the focal point during the current situation in which social contacts need to be significantly reduced.
Namely, chronic patients with stable conditions receiving continuous therapy can simply call a doctor's office and the dispensed medicine will be available in any pharmacy within seconds. There's no doctor, no unnecessary waiting, no possibility of infection.
In addition, if the doctor has labelled a certain treatment continuously, the patient no longer has to call the office and spend both his or her own time and the time of healthcare professionals. In a few clicks the prescription can be requested through the Health Portal available as part of the eCitizens platform.
Almost as useful, though slightly less sophisticated, is the functionality of the referral to the primary health care laboratory. Namely, this process is also digitized in the CEZIH system so that after you have given blood and urine samples, you do not have to go to the laboratory or refer them to a doctor at all.
Who remembers a little longer knows that the typical time to take over the test results was between 1 pm and 2 pm. Also, remember your own discomfort, but also the annoyance of a full waiting room, when someone knocked on the door of the office with the papers and apologized “I only have test results…”.
This is all the past because the test results are available electronically to the doctor, and one call is sufficient to provide feedback on the prescribed medicine or to recommend another form of healthcare.
This time-saving is great whether you're in town crowds or in rural areas where you need to travel long. Benefits in the time of the current pandemic are obvious.
Please note that your medical test results, as well as the information on prescribed medicines, are also available on the Health Portal.
eOrdering enables your doctor to order you to be examined immediately, even at the PHC office and saves you from calling in various institutions, looking for the optimal appointment. You can also order yourself through Health Portal for certain types of procedures without searching for e-mail addresses, scanning and sending orders, etc.
After entering several parameters, Health Portal will offer you the available appointments based on an electronic referral. Through it you can cancel any order in case you cannot use the reserved appointment. What could be the problem with eOrdering? Less in the IT solution itself, it is continually upgraded and approached to patients, and much more in the waiting lists themselves.
Although eOrdering can help shorten them by avoiding multiple orders or transparent internal calendars of healthcare organizations, it is nevertheless in the nature of people to discourage waiting. And it can be reduced, but unfortunately not completely avoided.
Another particularly important application of CEZIH is eHealth Record. eHealth Record is in fact an entire subsystem that subsets relevant medical information, which is exchanged through a system of CEZIH, transformed and made available to authorized healthcare professionals.
In this way, the health care professional can access the medical information which his colleagues entered about patient at CEZIH and which he would not have been able to access in many cases without eHealth Record.
You may wonder why it is important to have an eHealth Record application when doctors, for example in a hospital, will certainly take a history from the patient. But what if the patient is unconscious and timely information about the allergy is crucial to saving lives?
Also, patients can often miss giving very important information because they simply forgot it, or think it's irrelevant, and sometimes, for shame or some other reason, they deliberately withhold information.
Your visit to the pharmacy may seem trivial, but pharmacists are healthcare professionals who will give you the best information on how to use medicines for your specific case. However, they should be aware of all medicines you are taking and of other conditions that may affect the use of medicines.
Therefore, the pharmacist's access to eHealth Record provides insight into important information that is a prerequisite for accurate medication guidance and potentially suggestions to your doctor about the optimization of therapy.
If you are still wondering why all these healthcare professionals could access your medical data, knowing that you can always know who accessed them and when you accessed them might help. This main role is played by Health Portal. It allows you to manage the rights of access to eHealth Record, whether or not you allow it to selected family doctor, selected dentist, women to selected gynecologist, to ambulance, to SKZZ specialists and hospitals and pharmacists.
You can also see who, when, and what part of your eHealth record is accessed. This gives you, as the data owner, full control over access to your data through eHealth Record.
In addition, you may permit or not to exchange recipes or summaries of medical data between different EU countries, namely between those who have implemented this possibility like the Republic of Croatia, which allows you to raise your medicine abroad, or if you visit a doctor (remember only language barriers), it may see a summary of your medical data in order to provide more quality care.
When you return to homeland, you can look at all information about your visits to the primary care clinics at the Health Portal, including diagnoses, procedures, medical history, status and doctor's recommendations. A large number of discharge letters/test results from hospitals and SKZZ are also available.
Lastly, it is important to understand that modern CEZIH systems have been implemented, and access is only provided to healthcare professionals using smart cards and only if they have appropriate roles in the system. In short, benefits for the patient are significant, and every insight is recorded and the patient himself, at any time, can control it.