12. June 2012
Vienna and Lower Austria offer best regional health care
The provinces of Vienna and Lower Austria are cooperating closely with one another in order to offer the best health care in the eastern region of Austria. Such nationwide cooperation could be even further improved by the health care reform and the Electronic Health Act.
Wehsely in favour of health care reformThe Austrian health service has traditionally been characterized by the many “barriers” between its various divisions, such as that between intramural (clinical) and extramural (practical) health care. In order to overcome these as well as differences between one Austrian province and another, the federal provinces together with the Austrian federal government and the Main Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions have set up a six-man political committee to work towards a comprehensive health care reform. Sonja Wehsely, Vienna’s Executive City Councillor for Public Health and Social Affairs, is representing the federal provinces together with Josef Pühringer, head of the provincial government of Upper Austria. “It now looks as though we were on the home straight. The questions at stake are joint planning, joint control, and joint financial responsibility,” explains Wehsely. However, according to Wolfgang Sobotka, Lower Austria’s Councillor for Health, the declaration of intent on the health care reform due to be signed in the next few days is nothing but a “pipe dream” without the Electronic Health Act.
Tearing down barriers with the Electronic Health ActIn future the Electronic Health Act is designed to store reports and other health documents so that they can be downloaded by patients and physicians. In the opinion of Vienna and Lower Austria, the bill should be put before the Austrian National Council as soon as possible, since the Electronic Health Act stands for the improvement of the health service in the interests of patients, and for the exchange of health and treatment data so that incompatible medications are not prescribed, for example. It goes without saying that great importance will be attached to data protection. Only limitation: according to the Medical Association, the Electronic Health Act still has serious shortcomings. Sobotka refers to the postponement of IZIP, the electronic patient health records act, in the Czech Republic, something which he would not like to see happen in Austria. In contrast to the procedure with Austria’s neighbours, he believes that it makes sense only if every single person is automatically included by the Electronic Health Act unless he or she expressly wishes not to be recorded in the system.
In 2011 Lower Austria drew its own conclusions from the halting progress of negotiations at a national level: by introducing a Lower Austrian Electronic Health Act for the provincial clinic holding company it has implemented the ideal of “tearing down barriers”. Experience has so far been positive: avoiding multiple examinations and reducing waiting times due to the rapid availability of data has led to a significant improvement in the quality of treatment.
Together for the benefit of patientsVienna and Lower Austria are now endeavouring to extend this excellent collaboration beyond their provincial borders. For example, 20 per cent of patients treated in the facilities of the Hospital Association are not from Vienna. The average percentage of Lower Austrian patients is around the 16 per cent mark. For many years now, the ambulance organizations of both provinces have been working closely together at many different levels. When there is an emergency near the border, the provinces help one another out, with both road and air ambulances. “Health in our region does not stop at provincial borders,” assures Sobotka.
Shutterstock, Alexandra Kromus/PID