Bulgaria has begun an online electronic prescriptions project using a citizen-held e-health card.

The first online transaction, carried out earlier this month, marked the official launch of the Bulgarian electronic health card (eCard) providing citizens with access to e-health services, beginning with e-prescriptions.

Bulgaria’s first eCard pilot includes seven physicians, four pharmacies and 1,000 patients who are testing the eCard’s secure identification and authentication procedures, as well as the issuing and dispensing of electronic prescriptions.

During the three month pilot 1,000 patients are expected to use their eCard at both their GP and pharmacy. During the pilot the system will be evaluated to learn lessons for a wider roll-out.

The eCard system introduces a secure communications infrastructure that can be later upgraded to enable access to and exchange of patient medical records, using personal health records.

Dr Eleonora Popova, the first GP to use the new system, said: “The new eCard system significantly reduces our administrative work. The electronic prescriptions are issued very quickly, are always legible and faultless, and thus we have more time for our patients.”

All data in the eCard project is transmitted through a special security device developed by e-health specialist InterComponentWare (ICW) and Cisco.

The device, called the ICW box, encrypts all data before it is transmitted via a virtual private network. ICW is providing a developers kit for third party developers to enable their clinical and administrative software applications to be easily connected to the new eCard system.

“With the start of the pilot for the national electronic health card, Bulgaria leaps to the fore amongst nations adopting eHealth solutions,” commented Peter Reuschel, CEO of ICW.