What is the timetable for these goals? What are the key steps in the next few years?
Zilch: The strategy will be presented to the public in the first quarter of 2023. We all know that is when the real work begins. The implementation, evaluation, and update of the strategy can only succeed if all stakeholders make joint efforts and are on the same page. That is why it is so important to carefully consider and discuss the allocation of tasks, roles, and responsibilities as part of the strategy development.
Germany took an important step towards establishing digital health services when it launched the DiGA initiative in 2019. How do you rate the first three years of DiGA?
Zilch: It was a strenuous yet a very rewarding path. Since then, more than 30 digital applications are listed in the DiGA directory. They cover an increasing number of indications and provide therapy support for patients in a wide variety of ways. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM) and the various other institutions involved in the DiGA process have acquired new knowledge, set up new networks and have embarked on a path of continuous improvement and development. Doctors are also increasingly interested in digital health applications. On this basis, we can now develop the topic and consider a broader scope of DiGA telehealth care scenarios in the future.
From your perspective, what obstacles must still be overcome and what improvements are necessary to advance digitization in healthcare?
Zilch: I have already indicated one key factor: namely, the acceptance and enthusiasm of those involved and affected – this includes insured persons, patients, people in need of care, service providers, healthcare professionals, payers in the health care industry, software providers and stakeholders from science. Without them, success in digital transformation in medical and health care will be difficult to achieve. What’s more, we must finally have a joint constructive conversation in Germany to find the right balance between valid data privacy and data security concerns and the equally valid interest in a greater use of health information as it pertains to patient protection and public health. Many countries have shown us different options on how to accomplish this.