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Press Release

April 17, 2018

conhIT welcomes health minister for the first time

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn makes a strong impression at conhIT 2018. In his new role he explains the priorities for digitalising the healthcare system. We 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.“

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.“

Representing the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors, CEO Jens Naumann said that the industry would commit itself to the task with its expertise in order to support policymakers. Among other things it was important to formulate clear eHealth objectives in order to be certain about what direction the healthcare system would take, as regards the electronic patient file for example.

Opening event and keynote speech

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Doctors want to help shape the digital transformation

Doctors in Germany make a strong plea for comprehensive modernisation of hospital IT. Together with the industry IT systems must be improved.

Whereas many areas of high-level medicine would be unthinkable without ultra-modern IT, at patient care level the digitalisation of hospital facilities is moving forward only slowly – and in those areas where it has already taken place it is often not always considered helpful. According to Dr. Franz Bartmann, a member of the board of the German Medical Association and responsible for digitalisation matters, that had to change: ”Colleagues in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals must be able to understand and recognise digitalisation as supporting patient care.“

Demand for a state-driven investment programme

A survey conducted among the members of the hospital doctors’ union Marburger Bund (MB) and reported on by Dr. Peter Bobbert, a member of the board, at the conhIT Congress, indicated there was room for improvement. Over 1,700 doctors were interviewed, in particular specialists and head doctors. Only 21 % said the level of digitalisation at their medical institution was “high”, while as little as 6 % said they perceived a high degree of support from their IT department. Only 29 % said they were sufficiently equipped with computers, and only 50 % were of the opinion that their hardware and software were up to date. Nevertheless, around 40 % of hospital doctors believed that digitalisation would streamline work processes and make them easier. 46 % took the view that the quality of medical care was improving. ”A total of 80 % see digitalisation as an opportunity for their hospital work”, said Bobbert, According to the Marburger Bund, these findings show that doctors need to help shape the digital transformation in order for the healthcare system to go down the right path.

A large-scale investment programme to achieve an adequate IT infrastructure in hospitals is one of the demands that the Marburger Bund called upon policymakers to undertake. Bobbert put the necessary figure at 10 billion euros over a period of six years. In addition, it was necessary to ensure that systems were bound by uniform standards to enable them to communicate data across systems and sectors, “Standalone solutions are to be rejected“, said Bobbert. According to the Marburger Bund, it was also important for the digital transformation to achieve more than greater efficiency: ”Digitalisation must take doctors and patients into account. This is an opportunity to bring back some of the human aspect that the efficiency drive in the medical system has lost over the last 20 years.“

IT checklist must expose weaknesses and drive digitalisation forward

On the opening day of conhIT, in order to bring the digital transformation better into line with the needs of users, the doctors’ union and the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg) signed a collaboration agreement. Its purpose is to develop a digital checklist with which doctors can define and assess the digital status quo in their medical environment.

”The checklist aims to pinpoint weaknesses and shape a positive digitalised world for doctors in hospitals“, said Bobbert. Ideally, this can become a tool to assess individual degrees of digitalisation within a hospital. ”We hope to be able to present initial results at conhIT 2019“, said Bobbert.

The Benefits of the Digital Transformation in Healthcare to the Medical Profession

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Digital chaos at the point of care

“In the healthcare system digital chaos reigns where information is concerned.“ Most of the participants in the IT Workshop on 'Patients and their Data' at conhIT 2018 in Berlin agreed with this comment by market researcher Alexander Schachinger. One of the key demands made was ‘interoperability’. The current battle for ‘point of care’ assistance was apparently the reason for the current situation. Gregor Drogies of the DAK health insurance said that the procedure for reimbursing app development took an inordinate amount of time, during which the application would experience several updates. Furthermore, the new European Data Protection Directive increased the risk that health insurances might violate data protection laws, resulting in punitive measures that could put them out of business.

Gerlinde Bendzuck, chair of Landesvereinigung Selbsthilfe Berlin, complained that it ran contrary to the demands for patients to be able to retain control over their data if they were unable to switch health insurances together with all their electronic patient file data. She cautioned not to forget that many patients could be classified as ‘uninformed users’. Susanne Mauersberg, the officer in charge of health policies of the consumer organisation Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, pointed out that many challenges still had to be overcome in order to strike a balance between the conflicting demands of data protection and the digital healthcare system. A member of the audience suggested reformulating digital data protection guidelines to give a clear account of the use of personal data.

The IT Workshop is a new format forming part of the conhIT Congress programme. Its aim is to use brief lectures and debates to shape a more interactive event involving greater audience numbers in a higher-quality discussion.

IT Workshop: Patients and their Data

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Promise of greater patient involvement

According to surveys, around half of all German citizens are not sufficiently informed on health matters to be able to understand their own patient file. However, according to Johannes Schenkel, head of the Independent German Patient Advisory Service UPD (www.patientenberatung.de), that should not be an excuse to withhold data from patients, as is their right. Rather, those citizens must acquire the ability to deal with this information, said Schenkel speaking at a panel discussion at conhIT 2018 Berlin. Furthermore, it was necessary to define objectives to improve patient care, he added. Once patients recognised the benefits of the patient file there would be progress.

Representing the Swiss Medical Association, Reinhold Sojer talked about preparations for the electronic patient file in Switzerland. According to the results of an annual survey, around one-third of interviewees considered themselves able to decide who should have access to patient data. Doctors also often received messages from their patients via WhatsApp or other messaging services, he added. ”Many wish to share information with their general physician“, however only with that person and not with other parties.

Nicolai Bieber of the consultancy PwC thought the German debate on the telematics infrastructure in the healthcare system, i.e. the electronic patient file, was “odd“ because it was being held by specialised experts while talking about “what the patient wants…”. He appealed for even greater patient involvement, while sarcastically wishing the industry “good luck with establishing standards.“

Jörg Rübensam of Gematik, the organisation responsible for setting up the telematics infrastructure in the healthcare system, made a distinction between the patient file containing “structured data” from emergency case files, electronic medical report and medication data on the one hand, and the patient folder where patients could store health data in various formats on the other, including from wearable devices. This distinction was met with criticism from some of the other panel members. ”We need to discuss that distinction at some other point“, said Tino Großmann of CompuGroup Medical Deutschland.

Did you miss the press conference? You can request the video of the conhIT 2018 press conference here:

https://app.contentflow.live/#/295/4mVqRm3rZYE2YKKvh3iHFuyIl8u7TpQerlv18f0494qbuNJ7LyC26NNXmD515ixX

For time reasons it was not possible to reply to every question asked in the chat. However, we will gladly reply to your questions later. Please contact Natalie Gladkov and Britta Wolters.

About conhIT – Connecting Healthcare IT

conhIT targets decision-makers in IT departments, management, in the medical profession, nursing, doctors, doctors’ networks and medical care centres who need to find out about the latest developments in IT and healthcare, meet members of the industry and make use of opportunities for high-level advanced training. As an integrated event, over a period of three days conhIT combines an Industrial Fair, a Congress and Networking Events that are of particular interest to this sector. Launched in 2008 by the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg) as the meeting place for the healthcare IT industry and organised by Messe Berlin, this event recently recorded over 500 exhibitors and around 9,500 visitors and has now become Europe’s leading event for the healthcare IT sector.

conhIT is organised in cooperation with the following industry associations: the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg), the German Association for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology (GMDS), the German Association of Medical Computer Scientists (BVMI). The National Association of Hospital IT Managers (KH-IT) and the Chief Information Officers of University Hospitals (CIO-UK) provide contributions on the subject matter.

More information on products, topics, events and industry trends can be found by visiting the health IT homepage of bvitg Service GmbH, a subsidiary of the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg). www.health-it-portal.de.

This press release can also be found on the internet: www.conhit.com.