Health belongs to the infrastructure and services sectors, which are influenced and restructured by the development and implementation of information and communication technologies. But health care itself also gives impulses for the economic and social development which leads to the information and knowledge society. Communication, rationalization, and quality problems in health care are solved. Thus, increases in efficiency, quality improvements, and cost savings result. To achieve these results, a suitable general framework must be created. Important key applications need to be developed. There are currently four important initiatives:
1) At the European level, the action plan “eEurope 2002—An information society for all” with its 4 action lines on the subject of “Health online” was decided in Feira in 1999, followed by the action plan “eEurope 2005” in Sevilla in June 2002.
2) In Germany, the Federal Government’s program “Innovation and workplaces in the information society of the 21st century.” On 6 March 2002 the Government approved a progress report entitled “Information Society Germany.”
3) The decisions and requests of the health ministers’ conference on June 2001 and June 2002 to the Federal-State Working Group on Telematics to discuss and to compile comprehensive reports on telematics.
4) The joint declaration of the Federal Ministry of Health and German Health Care Associations of 3 May 2002 to establish a high-level Steering Group on Telematics and to introduce the electronic health card within a new telematic infrastructure in the German health care system.