Germany needs an eHealth strategy

The eHealth strategy does not depend on individual technical components, but on the holistic digitalization of health care.

The goal of digitizing the health system is to ensure high-quality health care in the long term, to continuously improve it and at the same time to keep it affordable. EHealth - the use of information and communication technology in the health industry - plays a major role here. 

For this reason, the industrial health industry associations called for a national eHealth target image at the beginning of this year. This should give all participants in the health system the necessary orientation and enable them to define and achieve concrete goals. The associations have called for such an objective to be developed in a politically moderated process across departments and sectors, to derive a national eHealth strategy from it and then to implement it comprehensively through a concrete action plan. 

What must an eHealth strategy for Germany achieve?

As far as the need for an eHealth strategy is concerned, there is already a common basis for industry. The next step is to define exactly how the eHealth strategy should look. To this end, it is important to maintain a holistic view of the digitalization of the healthcare industry and not to limit ourselves to the implementation of individual technical components. Rather, the overriding goal is to provide the health care that best suits each individual's state of health and living conditions. To achieve this, we must be able to control and manage the complexity of the supply processes and the data. The latter must first be recorded in a continuous process, then be communicated and finally be evaluated.

This is a complex technical challenge. However, the success of digitization in the healthcare industry does not only depend on its solution. Two other aspects are also of great importance: firstly, the confidence of citizens and patients in the handling of data in the health industry. We must therefore clarify at short notice which rules apply to the handling of data in the health industry and how we want to deal with data protection in the future. Secondly, a repeated reservation against digitalization in health care is the fear that there could be a desolidarisation in the SHI or that individuals could be disadvantaged by the use of data or by the refusal of data. Appropriate regulations on the topics of data protection and IT security will be able to take some of these fears into account. However, we must also ensure that the individual's freedom of choice is reliably protected.

The health industry must be reorganized

In order to achieve individualized health care, the health industry must be reorganized. Where today there is a hierarchical order of outpatient and inpatient care, which patients go through step by step, processes have to be decentralized and networked. This is done by integrating data along supply processes.

The example of other countries shows that a national strategy provides important guidance for all parties involved in the use of digital applications in health care and in building the necessary infrastructures. And this orientation is necessary if everyone in his or her area is to implement the right measures, which in sum will lead to the desired goal. Germany needs such a strategy. This can only be successfully developed and implemented on the basis of a common eHealth target. At this point, politicians are called upon to develop such an objective with the participation of all those who are involved. A strategy is then derived from the target screen. And the strategy leads to concrete measures. It is important that it is not a strategy for the use of individual technical instruments in health care, but a strategy for the digitization of the health economy in Germany.

Health Medical Engineering

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