The Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health was founded in 1919. It serves as a political coordination body for the health ministers of the twenty-six Cantonal States of Switzerland. Its aim is to promote cooperation among the Cantons as well as between these, the Confederation and the important organisations in the health system. Representatives of Federal Offices and of the Principality of Liechtenstein are permanent guests at
the meetings of the Conference. There are usually two plenary sessions and nine Board meetings per year. The Board is comprised of ten cantonal ministers of health. The Board deals with issues of high topical interest and prepares the agenda for the plenary sessions. The Conference has at its disposal standing committees on questions of planning and financing of health care, vocational training and on intercantonal examinations in osteopathy. Since 1978, the Conference has had a permanent Central Secretariat, located in Berne. In terms of legal status and financing, the Conference and its Central Secretariat are supported by the Cantonal States. All of these have entered into the Intercantonal Convention on highly specialized medical services that entered into force on 1 January 2009. As stipulated in the Convention, the Assembly of the signatory Cantons (corresponding in fact to the Conference) sets up a Decision Board HSM and a Scientific Committee HSM in order to promote the coordination and concentration of highly specialized medical services.
The Conference's decisions are merely considered as recommendations for the attention of its members and the Cantons. The decisions taken by the Decision Board HSM and the regulations of the examinations in osteopathy form an exception to this rule. The Conference is also of importance as a forum for debate for the health ministers and as a discussion partner for the Federal authorities and for many national associations and institutions.
Basically any question relating to health policy may be taken up by the Conference. It focuses primarily on problems related to specific central services, major coordination problems, political topics of common interest to the Cantons, and the position of the Cantons in relation to the Confederation. Among its ongoing tasks, the Conference takes stands and strives to achieve coordination in the fields of health insurance and healthcare financing, healthcare planning with special emphasis on hospitals and highly specialized medical services, health promotion and prevention, and the development of information systems. The Conference collaborates with the Federal Authorities in taking measures to promote medical information technology (eHealth), the development of basic medical services, palliative care and mental health. In collaboration with the national "Organisation of the Labour World" for vocational training in health care (OdASanté), the Conference is active in promoting vocational training and staff recruitment.