Welcome to the new year! While you are sipping your coffee or tea, here some updates for you on what is going on in the Swiss ICT business. We are now already at the beginning of the 3rd week in the new year… how did that happen?
As Covid-19 is a key topic everywhere, let’s start with that: the infection numbers in Switzerland have been very high for several months and the good news is that slowly but surely they are improving now. At the peak level in November there were well over 10.000 new infections in a day (!) and the latest day figure announced by the health authorities on Friday, January 15th was 2.396, the seven-day average having come down by 21% from the previous week.
The impact of the pandemic on the Swiss ICT business has not really differed much from that elsewhere. A recent study from August to October 2020 by the market and social research institute gfs-zürich showed that in two thirds of the surveyed 503 companies with 4 to 49 employees work could be moved to home offices without major issues.
The Swiss federal government has just announced significant new measures to protect the people against the upcoming third wave, which is expected to be accelerating the infection rates due to the new virus variant. From Monday the 18th of January the restaurants, museums, zoos and shops that do not sell only products for the daily use will be closed until the end of February. Sports events cannot be organised with spectators. It is now also required for people to work from home, if at all possible.
European media commented earlier that Switzerland is not closing its ski resorts, although some neighbouring countries requested that. Actually the decisions are made in the cantons, not on federal level and not all the ski resorts in Switzerland are open now. Well, skiing now seems to be possible in Austria, too.
Not that there would not be enough snow! A LOT of snow has covered the country – in canton Zurich we got some 30 – 40 cm of new snow and in the Alps the figure was closer to two metres in the last few days. This came down basically in two days of snowing and of course caused some major problems for traffic. In canton Zurich about 2.500 calls for help were made to the local authorities, often concerning fallen trees blocking roads.
e-ID vote coming up
There is going to be a very interesting national vote taking place on March the 7th: the Swiss will be deciding whether they want to accept the e-ID law proposed by the Swiss federal government or not. The idea is to make it simpler and more safe to identify oneself on the internet.
It is very common that there is resistance in Switzerland for such proposals and then a referendum is organised, often also with an alternative proposal to be voted on. This time this is not the case and if the Swiss folk vote no, it will take again several years to get a new proposal on the table without any solution to be used in the meantime.
What exactly the e-ID will look like, is not defined in the law. It will be used for identification in public and private online services. Obtaining the e-ID is voluntary for individuals and therefore online service providers will have to allow identification with other methods, too.
The creation of an e-ID has been in the works for some twenty years in Switzerland and it will be very interesting to see, what will happen in March – it is not completely sure that the law will be approved.
Swiss EPD (Elektronische Patientendossier): first implementation in canton Aargau
At least this is the way it was announced in December. We have read about other pioneering implementations of electronic patient (or “health”) records in at least Basel and in Geneva that have been in use for some time and are being developed further. Nevertheless, this is an important event and the rest of the EPD systems should be implemented during this year in Switzerland. The creation of the EPD systems is the main eHealth initiative and obviously a topic generating much discussion in the Swiss healthcare sector and among the public.
The EPD is a regional or national level database that will contain health information concerning the individuals living in Switzerland – that is, those persons that have decided to register for this system that is entirely voluntary for individual persons. For the hospitals and other healthcare providing organisations it is mandatory. The model has been under development for a long time and now the current version of the Swiss eHealth strategy is pushing the actual implementation in the field – the cantons being in the driver seats.
What does this mean for companies with eHealth-related solutions? You will have to ensure that your solution has an interface to those EPD systems.
In the starting phase the EPD will contain mostly documents – typically in PDF form and it will take some time, before structured patient data from tests will be recorded, according to some comments. How the documents are going to be recorded into the EPD remains open and particularly the private family doctors – of which there are still thousands – are not too keen to start doing that.
As a matter of fact – if you understand German and are interested in this topic, go to the Swiss national TV website www.srf.ch and search for EPD. You will get 4.036 search results, some of the newest ones on the above-mentioned EPD implementation in Aargau. It will give you an idea on how much discussion this matter is generating in Switzerland!