Consumer protection: Maintain data protection in digital health applications

According to a survey commissioned by the Federal Association of Consumer Centers (Vzbv), around 40 percent of consumers have made use of more digital health services since the corona crisis. For this reason, the Vzbv calls for the level of data protection not to be weakened for new digital offers. This is an important basis for the acceptance of digital applications. In the survey of 1,100 Internet users aged 16 and over conducted by the Eye Square opinion research institute, almost half (49 percent) stated that the digitization of the healthcare system had become more important to them personally since then.

Reasons for using digital health services

Reasons for using digital health services

Survey: Reasons for using digital health services

(Image: Vzbv)

For every second person, booking appointments online is a key reason for using digital services – for around 35 percent it is communication with medical staff.

However, only half of consumers currently feel “very well” or “rather well” informed about digitization projects in the field of health and care. More than 56 percent of those surveyed believe that health insurance companies, health and long-term care insurance funds and 36 percent see the Federal Ministry of Health as having a duty to provide information about digitization projects. An association of statutory health insurance physicians recently criticized the fact that health insurance companies provide too little information on e-prescriptions. According to the survey, around 40 percent of those surveyed each see central online booking of appointments with doctors, electronic access to medical findings and electronic prescriptions as relevant digitization projects in the healthcare sector.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach recently announced a digital law and a health data usage law. A research data law demanded by data protection officials is also currently in the works. The consumer advice centers are now demanding “to combine the plans with comprehensive consumer information”. In addition, according to Vzbv, people who do not use digital offers should not be left behind or excluded – for example when doctor’s appointments are made digitally.

“Many digital applications make everyday patient life easier, for example online appointment bookings or video consultation hours. In order for everyone to benefit from them, the implementation of the digitization strategy in the health and care sector must be tailored to the needs of the patients,” says Thomas Moormann, Head of the Health Team and care in vzbv. “This also includes comprehensive communication by the federal government about the possibilities, opportunities and risks. The aim must be that all consumers understand what is at stake. This is the only way they can make an informed decision for or against the use of digital offers, such as the electronic patient file , meet.”

In this regard, the Vzbv had also demanded that commercial doctor’s appointments should not be additionally remunerated, especially since these were funds from the contributors. The general ban on tracking, advertising and the obligation to register for such offers is also necessary. At the same time, the Vzbv spoke out in favor of further developing the “online offer of the appointment service points of the associations of statutory health insurance physicians, i.e. the ‘’, with a direct connection to the appointment booking in the doctor’s practices”. Therefore, analogue access routes for patient care should be retained.


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