Medicine 4.0 – Taking advantage of the possibilities of digitization -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Medicine 4.0 – Taking advantage of the possibilities of digitization

Photo: Man in an interview situation

Frank Gotthardt, Chief Executive Officer of CompuGroup Medical AG; © CompuGroup Medical AG

"Digitization" and "Medicine 4.0" are prone to become mere buzzwords. The reason for this is the stagnating implementation of a comprehensive IT infrastructure, for instance through electronic health records. Yet new digital technologies undisputedly have the potential to improve medical care for patients and the quality of the healthcare system in general.

At the MEDICA 2015, the need to comprehensively integrate the healthcare system is once again being discussed. Prior to the trade fair, Frank Gotthardt, Chief Executive Officer of CompuGroup Medical AG, is answering questions regarding "Digital Healthcare Strategies: Medicine 4.0".

Mr. Gotthardt, what does Medicine 4.0 actually mean?

Frank Gotthardt: We should talk less about terms and more about the possibilities that result from a digitization of processes, communication and operations in the healthcare system.

Digitization is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Ultimately, the point is to continue improving care provision in Germany, creating more efficient processes and achieving additional benefits for all parties involved. The healthcare system is still very anachronistic in this case and many opportunities of modern technology are still not being utilized. To the detriment of patients but also of all healthcare participants. This absolutely needs to change and integration, in particular, needs to become state-of-the-art.

What’s more, patient behavior has also changed. People want to be better informed today and take more responsibility for their own health. This needs to also be taken into consideration. Modern and sensible IT solutions can make a significant contribution to this.

What requirements need to be met to digitize healthcare and which ones can be realistically fulfilled?

Gotthardt: One core requirement for successful digitization of the overall healthcare system is investing in a functional IT infrastructure. This can be seen in hospitals: the findings of the European Hospital Survey from the year 2014 show that in Germany’s hospitals, funding for their IT infrastructure is insufficient. The result is that only 6 percent of German acute care hospitals utilize the option of regional or national integration. The EU average is 15 percent; it’s over 50 percent in Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. However, in the hospital of the future, IT plays a key role– for instance in the area of robotics and the integration of other clinical facilities to quickly gain accurate access to the diagnostic findings.

The dynamics within the private healthcare market shows how great the demand for innovative solutions is. This is why another challenge is to develop the governmental conditions in a way that facilitates quick implementation of processes. Wherever possible, this should be based on the principles of the free market that promote technology and quality. Of course, this also means to take the legitimate interests of physicians, hospitals, laboratories or pharmacists into account and adequately compensate for new, digitized processes and methods.

Photo: MEDICA ECON FORUM from above

MEDICA ECON FORUM by TK from above; © Messe Düsseldorf

What challenges need to be mastered most urgently to be able to utilize the opportunities of digitization of healthcare?

Gotthardt: Aside from the just mentioned requirements, I think it’s important for us in Germany to change our perception in general. We tend to contemplate possible risks of new products or methods at length and debate them until we have missed the opportunities that go with it.

A good example in healthcare is data security and privacy. Medical findings or entire medical reports have already been sent by fax for many years. An extremely unsafe medium in every aspect. Yet when data is supposed to be transmitted in the future via a safe infrastructure in encrypted form, we rant about data protection risks for years. Just to be clear: data privacy is very important and we spend many resources to find the best solutions for it. Unfortunately, however, it is far too often being misused to reject or prevent innovations.

Shouldn’t we actually talk about digital, mobile healthcare since the world around us is also becoming increasingly smarter?

Gotthardt: Healthcare per se does not need to become mobile, but it needs to provide answers for the mobility of people.

On the one hand, there are the physicians, hospitals or care facilities that are bound to a fixed location. That’s why they also need a proper infrastructure through which they are able to communicate safely and exchange data.

Insured persons and patients, on the other hand, are mobile. They want and need to access their own health data anywhere and anytime and make it available to physicians anywhere in the world. That’s why we have been advocating for safe, electronic and online medical records with exclusive rights of the insured person for a long time. Apps will also become a matter of course in healthcare and be a part of standard care someday soon- I hope.

A date to remember:

Frank Gotthardt will talk with other industry and political representatives at the MEDICA ECON FORUM by TK during the "Digital Healthcare Strategies: Medicine 4.0" (in German) presentation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015, starting at 11:00 AM at the MEDICA ECON FORUM by TK Hall 15/G05+06

Foto: Melanie Günther

© Barbara From-

The interview was conducted by Melanie Günther and translated by Elena O'Meara.