The digitalisation of health

Medical technology is a major market and offers excellent career prospects. Source: BVMed

The information technology of the 21st century pervades the health sector as it does other areas of the economy. But the potentials of IT are not yet being fully exploited.

IT service providers are developing special hospital information systems, medical practice information systems, and software for the laboratory, for radiology and for pharmacies. An electronic network of electronic patient files that a medical practitioner can access rapidly and regardless of physical distance has great advantages. In an emergency, in particular, the speedy availability of patient information can be invaluable. Quality can be improved as it becomes possible to avoid unnecessary repeat investigations and errors that arise as a result of incomplete information on the patient’s medical history.

E-health applications (telemedicine) are also technically possible, although not yet installed everywhere. Telemedicine uses modern communications media to provide assessment and treatment despite the physical or temporal distance between patient, doctor and pharmacist.    

In our view there is still much to be done in connection with the digitalisation of health and we are therefore working intensively on this issue. “The economic importance of the health sector and the necessity of good health care mean that we must make better use of the potential for digitalisation in the health industry,” said Dr Markus Kerber, Director General of the BDI, at a BDI event on “The digitalisation of health” in Berlin in May 2015.  Digitalisation provides important benefits for patients, such as shorter waiting times, prompt diagnosis and easier access to specialists. The benefits for medical practitioners are equally obvious: greater certainty in diagnosis and treatment, more effective working, more satisfied patients. Policymakers need to be clearly committed to the digitalisation of health as an interministerial task. Companies, too, must look at their products and skills and increase their digital maturity.

While the changes that accompany digitalisation create new applications, they also fuel concern and anxiety. In turn, anxiety fuels resistance. In the health sector this is particularly noticeable and understandable, because highly sensitive information is involved. But digitalisation also involves opportunities to improve our health care. We need to utilise these opportunities. But to do this we need the expertise to handle digitalisation.