Video consultation with the doctor will be available nationwide in 2026

The healthcare system should become more digital. (Symbolic photo)

From 2026, doctor’s appointments will be able to be booked nationwide via the 1450 hotline, and video consultations will also be made widely available. All of this will be financed with 51 million euros annually from the latest health reform. Also on the schedule: the integration of all findings and images into the ELGA health record, complete with its own app.

“Digital before outpatient before inpatient”

The priorities for expansion were jointly developed for the first time by all three players in the “e-Health Strategy Austria” and set for 2030. The work will be carried out jointly and across borders according to the principle “digital before outpatient before inpatient”, said the Minister of Health. John Rauch (Greens) said in a press conference in Vienna: “These are decisions that other countries in Europe certainly envy us for.”

The central infrastructure for all of this will be the existing ELGA, which is to be massively expanded in the coming years. Medications, previous illnesses and laboratory results should be accessible in a clear and as complete a manner as possible. The emergency services and the employees of 1450 – the service is being significantly expanded – will also be able to view the data for patients in the future. The option to opt out will remain.

Health apps for patients

Starting next year, people with chronic illnesses will be able to be prescribed health apps that can help diabetes patients with their diet, for example. Something similar will also be possible for migraines or nicotine withdrawal, for example.

According to Rauch, it is important that “it is of benefit to the patients” and that data security is the highest priority. As before, existing data sets will only be linked and made accessible. But under no circumstances will a central “data silo” be created somewhere, he tried to allay fears.

Health portal in progress

The Upper Austrian Minister for Health Christine Haberlander (ÖVP) stressed that technology must serve people and not the other way around. In Upper Austria, work is already underway on a large health portal involving all hospitals in the state. There is already a pilot project where checking in at 1450 means that waiting times in the hospital can be shortened.

Andreas Husscurrently chairman of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK), would like to launch the ELGA app as early as January 1, 2025 – which caused the other two to laugh heartily because of the great need for coordination. He said his vision was that patients would no longer have to carry a bag full of findings and x-rays from doctor to doctor and retell their medical history. He also emphasized that from 2025, statutory health insurance doctors and from 2026, private doctors will be required to code diagnoses. The latter will also be connected to the e-card system. This is also important for science, so that insights can be drawn from the health data.

Expansion of psychosocial care

Huss was also pleased about a decision outside of the digital realm: On Tuesday, the ÖGK Board of Directors approved a package of measures to expand psychosocial care for those insured. This will mean that there will not only be publicly funded psychologists, but also multi-professional psychosocial care centers throughout Austria in the future. The latter is not yet a given, however, as it must first be included in the states’ regional structural plans.

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