Paperless revolution makes headway in Italy: PEPPOL settles in Emilia-Romagna
The Emilia-Romagna initiative is framed within a common European context where each country is rolling out technological projects designed to improve the efficiency of relations between public providers and administrations that engage their services. Beyond the obvious benefits of modernizing the administration, these initiatives are also promoted through regulations in the form of European directives that require Member States to address these technological challenges. For example, Directive 2014/24/EU, which governs the creation of an interoperable platform for e-procurement and bidding at European level, or Directive 2014/55/EU, which obliges member states to establish electronic billing systems based on a common European standard.
In this regard, the Emilia-Romagna region has gone beyond e-invoicing and has set up a dematerialization flow which is mandatory for orders and shipping notes exchanged between healthcare organizations and their suppliers.
“As of June 30, these processes must be electronic and in PEPPOL format. This way, transactions are simplified, but in addition the region positions itself at the forefront of the e-Procurement initiatives soon to be rolled out in Europe,” explains Javier Garcia, the EDICOM manager monitoring this Italian project.
PEPPOL is a European initiative that aims to consolidate a single standard shared by all businesses and Public Administrations of the Union. As Javier Garcia explains, “dematerialization processes are becoming widespread in many countries, but interoperability among them continues to be a challenge.” This is why Emilia-Romagna decided to use a common and open standard for all stakeholders in the supply chain, namely the UBL PEPPOL format.
How does this dematerialization process work?
The Emilia-Romagna HealthcareeProcurement initiative is backed by the Intercent-ER Agency and regulated by Resolution n.287, which was published in March 2015. In the regulations, the authorities set out the technical features of this new model and the deadlines for adaptation.
“Operating with PEPPOL is based on a communications network with its own communication protocols. Trading partners must use the UBL-PEPPOL format and exchange their documents through an Accredited Access Point, such as EDICOM, to interoperate in the PEPPOL Network. This way, the data transfer is executed between two Access Points which have successfully passed the corresponding technical certification trials, which in the case of the Administration, is run by the Intercent-ER Agency”, explains EDICOM manager Javier Garcia.
Now, with the dematerialization project up and running, issuing electronic orders takes place in two phases:
First, the public body sends the order details to Intercent-ER.
Second, Intercent-ER forwards the document in PEPPOL format to another Access Point, such as EDICOM, where it is translated into the standard required by the recipient and delivered to them.
For shipping notes or despatch advices, which can also be electronic, the process is as follows:
From there, it is forwarded to Intercent-ER, which translates it into PEPPOL format and delivers it to the relevant public body.
These actions take place in real-time, so that issuing and managing these documents is speeded up. This also means that response times between the Administration and its suppliers are shortened. “With this project, companies will see their economic costs are reduced, as well as the number of errors that occur in these tasks. Moreover, implementing PEPPOL facilitates participation in public tenders and even continental trade, as the PEPPOL system is becoming increasingly widespread,” affirms Javier Garcia.
Although the dematerialization project currently only affects the public healthcare system of Emilia-Romagna and its suppliers, it is foreseeable that these electronic processes will continue to spread to other sectors. In fact Resolution n.287 already left the door open to this end, despite not specifying the deadlines.
We must also bear in mind that, in addition to the shipping notes and orders considered in the regulation, the entire Italian public sector and its suppliers have been obliged to use e-invoicing since 2015. In other words, as it stands today the bulk of commercial documents in the Emilia-Romagna healthcare system are already dematerialized.
“In the near future we will see how the digitization of these processes extends to more public bodies in this region, but also to other areas of Italy, such as Lazio,” adds Javier Garcia. In addition, we should add that these initiatives for e-procurement with PEPPOL are also being rolled out in other European countries such as Sweden, or in the United Kingdom through the NHS e-Procurement Strategy.