Experts warn against expensive hardware replacements in medical practices

The editors-in-chief of the trade journal »c’t« and the associated portal »heise online«, Jürgen Rink and Volker Zota, wrote an open letter to Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach to arrange an exchange of 130. to prevent so-called connectors in German medical practices. They fear that if those special routers are replaced, health insurance contributions of around 400 million euros will be wasted.

The publications from the Hanover publishing house Heise Medien and Gematik, the national agency for digital medicine, have been arguing for weeks. In July, the IT magazine »c’t« had already reported on the planned exchange campaign

, which is justified by the fact that the crypto certificates contained in the special routers will soon expire after five years.

Urgent exchange would be necessary

The editors of »c’t« had opened one of the special routers that is necessary for the secure encryption of health data. They found that devices of this type can be opened by IT experts without any problems and that the crypto certificate can be updated in this way. Their conclusion: With the relatively cost-saving process, the running time of the expensive devices could be extended to 2000. Then a new version of the telematics infrastructure should go online, which should do without connectors.

Time is of the essence, the editors write in their current appeal to the Minister of Health, the certificates must be exchanged by October 1st. “Only immediate implementation avoids the exchange of further connectors – while maintaining the security level required by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).”

Even though a board member of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians had publicly called for clarification at the beginning of August

, the connector replacement was not cancelled. According to their own statements, the editors were not given a comprehensible explanation for this.

Because the journalists do not feel sufficiently informed by the decision-makers, they now appeal directly to Lauterbach – Gematik GmbH is majority owned by the federal government. The minister should disclose the minutes of the shareholders’ meeting so that it can be ensured that “in fact, sufficient information was provided early on about the possibility of extending the certificate,” write Zota and Rink. Should the update solution be approved after all, the journalists hope that millions could be saved.

Gematik did not want to comment on the open letter when asked by SPIEGEL. In principle, however, it assumes that the published exchange solution is not a viable alternative: the exchange of crypto certificates was never intended by the manufacturers, Gematik argues. In addition, storing the new certificate directly in the router, as suggested by »c’t«, poses new security risks and is only an interim solution.

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