Whether it is an EHEC-infection or the swine flu, the quick reporting of infectious diseases to the responsible federal authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin, is getting more important than ever. The notification process is expected to be simplified and optimised following the successful implementation of a pilot project, the aim of which was to transmit encrypted messages to the health authorities with the click of a mouse.
The test phase of the project was successfully implemented in the Rhein-Kreiss Neuss (a District in the west of North-Rhine Westphalia) by the public and private organisations that participated. The reporting doctors, laboratories and hospitals were able to send electronically the sensitive medical data to the local health department, which in turn ensured that the Robert Koch Institute was timely informed about infectious diseases via federal state authorities.
An important element of the project is a structured data set for recording and transmitting the necessary information. The project also establishes a secure route, which enables the confidential and protected transmission of data. Lastly, it requires the integration of the data set in the computer systems of the doctors, the laboratories and the hospitals. This allows the exchange of information without any additional time and effort from the reporting parties.
The participants presented a positive interim assessment at Grevenbroich City Hall. Hans-Jürgen Petrauschke, District Governor of the Rhein-Kreis Neuss, called the project "A particularly fine example of how the capabilities of the electronic data processing can be used to serve everyone". Karsten Mankowsky, District Councillor for Health, was also pleased: "Although we were already doing well in this area, the process now is faster, better and more cost-effective than before".
During the outbreak of the EHEC, there was a lot of criticism voiced in many areas for the delays in the registration of the cases. The reason for it was that the reporting of infectious diseases by doctors, laboratories and hospitals to the health authorities is still largely made by using traditional communication channels such as letter or fax.
"This way, our project gained a whole new relevance", said Dr. Michael Dörr, head of the local health department at Rhein-Kreis Neuss. About a year ago, the independently operating Competence Centre for Healthcare Telematics was tasked to examine on site the implementation of the official reporting system, as well as the potential of the system to serve as a model for an exclusively electronic transmission strategy.
Dr. Regine Kämmerer, Head of the Medical care and Infection Control Unit in the Ministry of Health of North-Rhine Westaphalia, Rainer Beckers, Business Manager of the Competence Centre and Gilbert Mohr, Deputy Director of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, expressed their satisfaction with the project's results.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is the central federal institution responsible for disease control and prevention and is therefore the central federal reference institution for both applied and response-orientated research as well as for the public health sector.