German Health System Adopts Open Source Matrix as Instant Communications Platform

Gematik, the provider of digital solutions for the German health care system has chosen the open source Matrix protocol to underpin Germany’s new instant communication platform, which will be used by over 150.000 organisations, such as general practitioner offices, hospitals, and insurance organisations. The decision follows examples such as the German armed forces and France’s government adopting Matrix as the basis for their instant communication needs.

Sivan PätschThe current digital communications system in the German health care sector has shown itself to not satisfy all the communication needs of its users, as it was not designed for direct communication. Yet, with progressing technological possibilities, Gematik saw the necessity to add communication services allowing faster processes. Gematik is majority owned by the German Ministry of Health.

When scoping, Gematik identified six challenges connected to providing this service to its users:

  • Flexibility and user-friendliness in identity management
  • Universal accessibility of the services of the service
  • Operational stability and adaptive modern security concepts
  • Data sovereignty in distributed services
  • Operational stability and adaptive modern security concepts
  • Integration of data across services and applications

Matrix was chosen as the technical basis as the new service aims to provide instant messaging, video calls, file exchange and crucially applications that can be integrated into the existing platform. The open nature of the Matrix protocol means additional functionalities can be added. Matrix’s openness and flexibility also satisfies the six main principal requirements of Gematik to the platform:

  1. Federated identity management, this "bridge" enables more flexibility and user-friendliness through the simple use of identity confirmations from the TI for the user groups' own digital services.
  2. Universal accessibility of services, the elimination of proprietary IT solutions (e.g. Konnector) reduces costs and stabilises operations.
  3. A modern security architecture, this allows the independent provision of services by different providers and services by different providers and is both more secure and more efficient.
  4. Distributed services, the linking of data from different sources is necessary from the point of view of optimised supply processes.
  5. Interoperability and structured data, case-based care and research require an improvement in data quality. Standards-based structured data and interfaces increase the availability of products and services.
  6. A set of TI rules that can be processed automatically, automated verification of security and data protection as well as interoperability and availability strengthen trust in the TI.

By 1 October 2021, it should be clear how users of the new platform can communicate with each other in practice. By 1 April 2022, the service itself should be ready in its first iteration and finally, by 1 October 2023, more than two users should be able to contact each other simultaneously.

Leyck Dieken, Managing Director of Gematik: “We act as hosts, ensure quality and monitor compliance with safety requirements and operating rules. We provide necessary basic functionalities for the users.”

Gematik is forging down the open source path not only regarding the new platform. It announced on 5 August that the source code to the mobile iOS and Android apps for digital subscriptions developed by Gematik is being made available as open source on GitHub.

“With our transparent development processes, we want to strengthen trust in the telematics infrastructure and engage in exchange. This benefits our apps and thus also the users. The community is not a silent reader - we expect constructive criticism from experts, which ultimately benefits our app and can increase user-friendliness. The development, the introduction and also the security-related evaluation of the e-prescription app should be shared with the greatest possible openness.” - Florian Hartge, CPO and responsible for production processes within Gematik

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This article was published in Joinup, a website of the European Union that is focused on the sharing and reuse of interoperability solutions for public administrations, businesses and citizens. The original article can be found here. It is reprinted under the Joinup guidelines.