The importance of health care is obvious, and so are the advantages that information and communication technology is bringing to health care, its quality, its availability and its affordability. Equally important, however, is security. Security for health care information systems is not only a technical matter, it is a social goal to be achieved and to be maintained by acknowledging the social values in which such systems operate, such as the essential relationship of trust between the patient and the doctor and individual as well collective privacy, values which find their expression in the normative environment of these systems. As the report shows observing security from this perspective, in time, turns legal requirements from obstacles to assets for successful implementation and acceptance.
The report is the result of a collaborative European effort; collaborative across national and linguistic boundaries, collaborative as regards the disciplines involved in its production, and collaborative as it concerns the various sub-disciplines of law dealing with these issues. With this broad approach the report represents another essential element for the future of health care information systems in our societies: Health care information systems will reflect the increasing mobility of the European citizens, the diversity of the services they will expect within Europe, the information and communication needs these services will produce and the complex legal environment in which they have to operate.
As recently shown by the European Directive on data protection and by the efforts of establishing a European sytem of secure transactions, in this context too, the legal environment ist the expression of common expectations as regards the values to be observed in the European information and communication society.
The report addresses these issues in a clear language bridging the disciplines, providing highly useful policy tools for project leaders and for decision makers in the Health Telematics field.
Prof. Dr. Herbert Burkert
University of St. Gallen
Chairman, Legal Advisory Board for the Information Market
To DG XIII of the European Commission
For several year the Physicians Chamber of Lower Saxony (PCLS) has supported the development of secure communication networks in health care. Results of the participation in the European projects TrustHealth 1, SIREN, and G7-Health Data Cards as well as from several national activities like the Arbeitskreis Health Professional Card are condensed into this book. The fruitful collaboration between PCLS and Professor Rienhoff who headed the “legal workpackage” of the SIREN project started in 1980 when Rienhoff became the first “data-protection-officer” of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Niedersachsen. Already in the seventies phrasing and implementation of the data protection laws took place in a close cooperation between Professor Kilian from the University of Hannover and the late Professor Reichertz from Hannover Medical School, academic teacher of the three German authors of this book.
The collaboration with C. Laske and P. van Eecke is more recent but became a cornerstone in our activities: both of them being at home in several European legal cultures and outstanding experts in their fields.
During the next decade IT-systems will change drastically the way health care systems are operating. Quality management, continous medical education, new patient services, knowledge management, bioinformatics, microtechnology and tele-services will change the way how physicians help their patients. However, if patients and doctors shall trust these new powerful tools security and dataprotection have to be guaranteed. The Physicians Chamber of Lower Saxony will therefore continue to support all intellectual, organisational, legal, and technical developments which together may assemble the guarantee needed.
Prof. Dr. Heyo Eckel
President, Physicians Chamber of Lower Saxony
President, German Senat for Continuous Medical Education