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Belgian doctors face computer monitoring

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7029.466 (Published 24 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:466
  1. Alexander Dorozynski

    Doctors in Belgium are to have their prescribing habits monitored by computer after lengthy discussions between the government and unions. The monitoring system, Pharmanet, will rely on bar codes similar to those used in supermarkets to identify doctors and the drugs that they prescribe to generate a national database.

    Many doctors had originally objected to the scheme, although the largest medical union, the Association Belge des Syndicats Medicaux, agreed to the basic principle and participated in outlining Pharmanet's way of working.

    It was agreed that the results of the monitoring will not lead to sanctions against doctors who could be considered to be “overprescribers” and that names of patients will not appear in the computerised data—thus guaranteeing medical confidentiality.

    The union's president, Dr Jacques de Touef, said that the system would lead to peer evaluation of prescription habits.

    According to Dr Luc Blondeel, project coordinator at the ministry of social affairs and public health, Pharmanet will provide better knowledge of doctors' prescribing habits and of their consequences on national health insurance spending. It should also help the ministry to establish guidelines to influence doctors' behaviour in areas where there is overprescribing.

    Some pharmacists are still worried about the plan, which they claim will require extra work on their part without compensation. The first results will be available next July and will be examined by local groups before being evaluated nationally.—ALEXANDER DOROZYNSKI, medical journalist, Paris

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