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Good tech, fast medicine: how you'll soon be able to pick up a prescription anywhere in Europe

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Good tech, fast medicine: how you'll soon be able to pick up a prescription anywhere in Europe
Copyright  euronews
By Claudio Rosmino

The development of so-called ePrescriptions will soon make it possible for people to be able to pick up their medication at any pharmacy inside the EU without a paper prescription. The multi-lingual system is already being used in Finland and Estonia. Smart Health travelled to Tallinn to find out more.

A fast and simple process

Estonia and Finland are connected in many ways. Just in terms of cross-border travel, millions of people make the journey between Helsinki and Tallinn every year. But the two EU nation’s ties go much deeper than that. Now both Estonians and Finns can pick up their prescribed medicine from a pharmacy, irrespective of which country they are in.

That’s been made possible, thanks to an e-Prescription and e-Dispensation service set up in 2019. Entering a patient's electronic identity card, the pharmacist uses the ePrescription platform to check and then hand over the prescription.

"Once we are in the system, we see the list of the prescriptions made for this person, and the system automatically translates it to the Estonian language. So everything is understandable for us," explains Pharmacist Aleksandr Vares.

Aleksandr says once the prescription has been paid for, it takes a few minutes for the system to send the information to the patient's home country. After that the prescription is either reimbursed immediately or the cost of the prescribed medicine is reduced. 

"It's possible to buy almost all prescription medicines, except psychotropic, narcotic medicines and extemporaneous medicines, which are prepared in the pharmacy," Aleksandr adds. 

Cross-border healthcare

Estonia’s public IT agency Tehik developed the e-Prescription system. Its own experience has been used to help the European Commission to launch the European Health Data Space. A project which aims to dramatically improve cross-border healthcare across the EU through the harnessing of patient data.

The e-prescription system relies on the European eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure. The network provides continuity of care for people travelling across Europe.

Two cross-border health services are currently being introduced: ePrescription and eDispensation. 

It includes a summary of a patient’s medical history. The first countries to start using the ePrescription and eDispensation system are Estonia, Finland, Croatia and Portugal. The plan is for other European countries to gradually join the system over the next few years.

"Today we don't think about when travelling to have the roaming package, mobile package with my phone. It should be as simple with cross-border e-health services, that actually I don't have to think to have the prescription or the paper with me. It shouldn't be necessary. I just should walk into the pharmacy and show my ID and get the medicine I want," says Tõnis Jaagus, head of Tehik's health division. 

Connecting different healthcare providers across Europe will require a high level of security and interoperability based on common codes among the member states says Artur Novek, Tehik's IT architect. 

"We need to identify people securely and in Estonia's case, we have two ways to do that. There is an ID card and their mobile ID, in their devices, like in the ID card there is a chip which contains your private key which identifies you to the system."

In the future, cross-border health services in Europe should be similar to mobile phone roaming. The medical data and prescriptions of patients will follow them when they are abroad, guaranteeing better care and treatment.