Digital healthcare system: Germany must catch up

For Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) the digital transformation of the healthcare system is of great concern, something he has already clearly shown at this early stage of his tenure. Practically one of his first acts in office was to restructure the health ministry and create a new department responsible for digitalisation, which previously had not existed in that form. He emphasised this at the opening of conhIT 2018 by presenting himself as a partner of companies and other stakeholders: “I am convinced of the need for digitalisation which I intend to shape together with you.“

Photo
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU).
Source: conhIT

Spahn announced that, together with his new department head Gottfried Ludewig, he would be carrying out an in-depth assessment of the current situation over the coming weeks. His aim was to determine the areas requiring comprehensive political measures before the summer recess. Specifically, he appealed for greater use of telemedical and online medical applications in order not least to improve patient care in rural regions: ”My impression is that more and more doctors are willing to take up the opportunities on offer“, Spahn said. The minister said it was necessary to make better use of big data to improve knowledge of diseases and understand treatment processes: ”Essentially we need to make better use of the data that is already available. That is where there is still great potential.” Spahn also suggested using artificial intelligence for a broad analysis of treatment processes. It was necessary to involve patients, who could “donate” data, and to undertake technical steps to prevent its misuse: ”In certain cases exaggerated data protection measures are obstructing patient care“, the minister said.

Incorporating mobile applications into digital information flows in the healthcare system was another issue of great concern to Spahn. As early as this spring his ministry would be presenting a catalogue with criteria for determining which applications had been tested and were of medical value. Ultimately the aim would be to provide a form of certification, regardless of the independent matter of reimbursement for digital app development within the framework of the legal statutory health insurance. Spahn admitted that in the past political decisions had not always been made in good time, and that in some areas the pace of digitalisation of the German healthcare system was slower than elsewhere. He was optimistic, however: ”The further behind we are, the more we can catch up.“

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