WHO touts e-health initiative as GPs remain skeptical

The Latvian Association of Family Physicians is not convinced that the e-health (E-veselība) system will be ready for use starting from January 1, the association’s president Sarmite Veide told LETA November 3. 

Starting from January 1, the e-health system is mandatory for all family physicians (also known as general practitioners or GPs). As the deadline has already been moved from September 1, Veide is sure that the ministry understood that it is not ready for use as yet.

Meanwhile no reservations were voiced by the World Health Organization (WHO) that on November 1 published a video with an accompanying article praising the benefits of e-health as modern and accessible, while also underscoring that the know-how of the WHO Latvian office helped implement the system.

".. several comprehensive improvements, aided by technical support from the WHO Country Office in Latvia, have helped the eHealth system reach a high level of reliability and acceptance," the announcement reads. 

The WHO announcement also claims the e-health system is fully functional and ready for public use: "The team of WHO and national experts concluded that the eHealth system in Latvia is ready for public use. It has every capability to ensure health-care service and payment transparency, to improve access to health-care services and to encourage patients’ participation in their health care."

However Sarmite Veide's remarks ran contrary to the above statements, as she said that family physicians, many of whom have been on a limited strike against the government since this summer, want to introduce the e-health system only gradually, at first starting to use it for sick leaves, and agree only later on e-prescriptions and other functions when it is clear that these functions work properly.

Veide granted that some improvements have been made in processing sick leaves in e-health, but there are still problems with e-prescriptions.

"We received complaints from our members. Preparing of an e-prescription requires five minutes, while just one minute is needed for a hand-written prescription. It is not acceptable," said Veide. Also, many of the medications have not been entered in the system, so, in any way, medics should still issue hand-written prescriptions, she said.

Veide also claimed that the e-health system frequently malfunctions, and doctors need time to find the necessary functions in the system, spending time that should be devoted to patients instead.

As reported, so far 35.8% or 472 family physicians have signed agreement on joining the Unified Electronic Information System of the Health Sector, or e-health system, according to the National Health Service's data. 

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