A recent study focused on the Digital Health Index and the index shows how much a country relies on digital technologies in its healthcare system by international standards. The result shows that Germany is lagging behind.
With an index of 30 on a scale of 1 to 100, Germany ranks 16th out of 17 countries surveyed. Only Poland is worse with an index of 28.5. Estonia places the highest emphasis on digital technologies (81.9), followed by Canada (74.7), Denmark (72.5), Israel (72.4), Spain (71.4) and NHS England (70.0). Australia (57.3), Italy (55.8), Belgium (54.7), Switzerland (40.6), France (31.6), Germany and Poland are below the average of 58.9.
The study points out that more emphasis should be placed on the potential of digital health solutions. For example, electronic patient records could prevent dangerous drug interactions, telemedicine could bring patients together with medical experts from any location, and health apps could strengthen chronically ill patients.
"While Germany is still exchanging information on paper and working on the fundamentals of digital networking, other countries are already taking the next steps," said Brigitte Mohn, CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. "In Israel, for example, physicians are systematically using artificial intelligence - for early detection of cancer, for example. The demand from this realization is that health policy must act more decisively and further expand its leading role in shaping digitization for the benefit of patients.
Further recommendations for health policy makers are:
Establishment of a national competence centre:
The coordination of processes from a central location is crucial for successful digitisation. The competence centre should integrate existing institutions, interest groups, experts and users and be responsible for standardising digital applications and defining interfaces. It should be politically controlled and independent of actors' interests.
Step-by-step approach to developments
Individual treatment areas and processes should be targeted. "The expected improvement in care and possible efficiency gains should guide action.
Systematic inclusion of patients and physicians as users:
When developing partial strategies as well as digital applications and processes, users such as patients and doctors should be directly involved and not their professional representatives. The benefits of applications should be visible at an early stage.
Promoting general acceptance:
Digital change needs acceptance and a broadly shared vision. Politicians should understand and approach their communication to this effect as a strategic task.
A published representative population survey commissioned by the digital association Bitkom showed that there is a high level of acceptance for the digital healthcare system. More than two thirds of the respondents were in favor of the use of artificial intelligence in medicine and care.