WP5 – Policy and Innovation. Short Technical Paper. Case Study: Overview of Policies Enabling Digital Health in Austria

WP5 - Policy and Innovation. Short Technical Paper. Case Study: Overview of Policies Enabling Digital Health in Austria
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This paper describes the policies enabling Digital Health in Austria, along with its various aspects. The emphasis falls on the policy area of Data Sharing and Interoperability.

Among the various sections that cover this policy area in detail, the first addresses the national point of view regarding the general health insurance policy in Austria. It describes the complexity of the Austrian health system and its compulsory social insurance model. Development of a nation-wide Austrian health network was directed by MAGDALENA framework published in 2000 which introduced technical and organisational recommendations and established a foundation for the electronic exchange of patient data. A social-security chip card ”eCard” and the Austrian health care reform act were introduced in 2005.

A variety of entities are involved in the Austrian Healthcare System, such as the federal government, social insurance system, all of the nine provinces of Austria. This paper briefly describes the responsibilities and the coordination that has developed between the stakeholders/entities.

Health reforms and most notably the Austrian Healthcare reform act addressed the rising challenges to the health systems.ELGA, the national electronic health care record was implemented after the enactment of ELGA act 2012. The federal health ministry issued a framework guideline for the IT infrastructure for telemonitoring. mHealth applications for disease management  already exist and Telerehabilitation was introduced in 2018.

Austria has been proactive to face the challenges presented by COVID-19 and to reduce its impact. Data from many sources are needed, and an agreed view on a wide range of measures e.g. for contact tracing is to be taken. Co-operative planning and sharing of best practices within the EU and beyond will increase the potential for successfully managing the epidemic throughout the mid- and long-term future.

This paper also identifies the gaps and trends in the Austrian mHealth adoption with an emphasis on the current COVID -19 challenge. These are based on the  RDA (Research Data Alliance). In April 2020, RDA started the RDA COVID-19 Working Group, to develop recommendations on timely and accurate collection, reporting and sharing of COVID-19 related data with the research community, public health practitioners, clinicians and policymakers.

Finally, this paper also provides a number of recommendations. These recommendations are in the form of processes, standards and innovations, among others. All this is done to address COVID-19 and other challenges in the long term.

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