Parliament allocates millions for digitalization in the healthcare sector

The federal government is supporting the digitalization of the healthcare system with a funding programme worth millions. As the second chamber, the Council of States has approved a commitment credit of just under CHF 400 million. The Federal Council estimates the total costs at CHF 624 million.

The small chamber approved the Digisanté program on Wednesday with 34 votes in favour, one against and five abstentions. The business is therefore ready for the final vote.

The need for action is high, said committee spokesperson Peter Hegglin (center/ZG). In international studies, the Swiss healthcare system occupies top positions in terms of quality. In contrast, Switzerland regularly ranks at the bottom in terms of digitalization in this area. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated these deficits.

Compatibility of systems

With Digisanté, the federal government aims to improve the quality of treatment, the efficiency and transparency of the healthcare system and patient safety. One of the reasons for this is that hospitals and doctors' practices have been working digitally for a long time, but with different programs. As a result, a lot of data has to be recorded multiple times, which is a source of error.

The entire program comprises around 50 projects. The aim of the program is in particular to better coordinate systems and processes in the healthcare sector. In particular, the federal government wants to digitalize registers, reporting systems and information platforms from end to end and ensure that they can communicate with other IT systems.

In principle, the bill was not very controversial. However, concerns became clear during the debate. Baptiste Hurni (SP/NE) wanted to know from the Federal Council what the projects actually meant for patients. After all, the focus should be on their needs and not those of the administration or service providers.

Reservations about "huge project"

Like Hurni, Hannes Germann (SVP/SH) also referred to difficulties with the last major digitization project - the Electronic Patient Record (EPR). With Digisanté, we are now "really on track", said Germann. Because standardized solutions are needed for the whole of Switzerland.

"I find it difficult to agree to a huge project when it comes to IT," said Pirmin Schwander (SVP/SZ). He cited the difficulties with major federal IT projects in the past - such as the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security and the Tax Administration. He would therefore abstain from voting.

Health Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider assured that lessons had been learned from the mistakes made with the EPD. There is close cooperation with the various stakeholders.

The Health Committee of the Council of States had unanimously requested the adoption of the bill. It also expressly supported the close monitoring of the program by Parliament as decided by the National Council. This involves guidelines for the Department of Home Affairs regarding the objectives of Digisanté, controlling and the involvement of the parties concerned. Annual reporting to Parliament is also planned. (SDA)

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