Automating health care with a Commodore

When I was at the doctor’s earlier this week and he asked me at the end of the consultation for my SIS-card, it reminded me that the whole health care system in Belgium is actually quite well automated.
With the SIS-card (Social Information System), all your basic info (no medical data or history) is made available to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. and it basically automates the whole process of reimbursements of the medical costs incurred. It also provides the health care system the needed data to make the right projections for the future when it comes to government spending and saving for the next years.

The SIS-card is just one of the many credit card size IDs we have here, just like our eID, which is basically your identity card on a chip. Back in 2000 Belgium was a world-leader in the whole eID setup as the card also can be used not just by the authorities to verify who you are (if they needed to), but also by the card owner when, say for instance, you have to identify yourself online to make a purchase, register for a service etc.

Even Bill Gates was impressed with how the digital highway was becoming much more intertwined with everyday life over here.

Now, this is of course 21st century stuff but back in the 80s, the Commodore computer was central in automating already a part of the health care system: the doctor’s practice.
A company called Datahome had created a complete package consisting of a C128D, a color monitor, a Star printer and software called “Fresh”. It cost about 2000 Euro but for that you got 24/7 support, 5 year warranty and an at-your-door delivery of the whole system.
It allowed a doctor or his/her assistant to keep track of patients, the consultations provided, prescribed medicines and keep track of the “turnover” of the practice.
With a click of a button, the doctor could print out the prescription, a doctor’s note (that you could present to your employer or school to show that you could not go to work or attend classes for a couple of days) etc.
Since it kept track of payments as well, quarterly reports could be generated that could be sent to the health care administration or to the accountant to keep the books in check.

It is now something we use and do without thinking… it’s really become natural to carry these IDs like the SIS card on you and it’s a practical way to make sure the health care system works as efficient as possible. But it’s also nice to look back 30 years and realize that the good old Commodore already was helping the health care system back then, and did a really good job at it!

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