An electronic health card for Germany

Morpho is part of Europe’s largest IT project: the introduction of the electronic health card in Germany. A challenging mission!

76 million insured persons, 200,000 health professionals, 20,000 pharmacists, 2,000 hospitals and around 145 health insurers in Germany: all of them have been joined together since October 2011 by a smart card aimed at enabling efficient and secure communication. The establishment of the telematic infrastructure including the rollout of the electronic health card is the largest IT project in Europe to date and will create the basis for fundamental modernization of the German healthcare system.

And Morpho is playing a key role in this, since every one-in-three insured person in Germany will use a health card from the expert for digital security. The machines at its plant in Flintbek near Kiel are currently working at full speed: According to lawmakers, 70% of all insured persons must be provided with the new smart card this year.

Yet not everything in the mammoth e-health card project is running as smoothly as the machines in Morpho's high-security plant in Northern Germany. Christopher Goulet, Director Sales Business Unit Health, ID and Payment for Central and Eastern Europe, states: "Up to last summer it still looked like the entire project would be doomed because of political disagreements. When the German government then decided that the first 10% were to be issued by the end of the year, we successfully withstood our first test and ramped up production from zero to full output almost at the drop of a hat. Now, after just having received recently a latest order of 700,000 units we'll ship a further 21 million cards this year." Everyone in Germany is expected to be supplied with the new e health card by 2013.

The card may then be able to show just what it is capable of. "Not all its functions are leveraged at the moment, since a corresponding infrastructure hasn't yet been adopted in Germany," says Goulet. Today the new card differs from the former one by featuring a photo of the holder in order to prevent misuse. The new processor chip offers greater security for the data of insured persons and supports applications planned in the future. Insured persons are already saving time because with the eGK there is no need to go to their insurer's offices, as they are able to conduct legal transactions conveniently from home via the card's electronic signature function.

Production process under control
"We already have received the catalog of requirements for the second expansion stage of the health card on the table. ‘Generation 2' will also be suitable for online use with a telematic infrastructure that will be in place then," states Goulet. The online function will mean significant cost reductions for health insurers, for example when the address of insured persons needs to be changed. Voluntary data, such as details on consent to donating organs, can also be stored online on the card.

That inevitably raises the question of security. Apart from holding the stringent security certification required, Morpho is the only vendor to have the entire health card production process – from operating system development, module assembly and card body to mailing – in Germany alone, meaning that information and data of insured persons never leaves the country. And what happens if there is a technical problem? Christopher Goulet notes: "We're able to deliver at all times, not least because we have a partner standing by as a hot backup."

Morpho is now intensively preparing for the latest requirements of the next-generation electronic health card: "We want to remain the technology and market leader," says Goulet. And so Europe's IT project embarks on its next stage.