Digitalisation in healthcare

Advancing digitalisation is a key precondition for the successful evolution of our healthcare system.

Embracing opportunities

Digitalisation has already caused substantial changes to many areas of social life and the economy. But it also offers major opportunities for healthcare: not only for accelerating communication and simplifying administrative procedures, abolishing faxes and printed forms, but also when it comes to the accessibility of patient data when- and wherever they are needed to ensure good and effective treatment.

In addition, the systematic evaluation of medical data will improve the detection of diseases, facilitate the provision of individualised therapies and offer opportunities for innovative cures. The use of mobile applications harbours new opportunities for enabling patients to play a self-determined role in treatment-related decision-making as well as for strengthening health literacy.

This way, digital technologies can help us to better address the challenges that almost all healthcare systems in the western world are currently facing – treating a growing number of older and chronically ill people, paying for expensive medical innovation and continuing to ensure high-quality medical care in rural and structurally weak areas.

Key aspects of the digital transformation

In recent years, the Federal Ministry of Health has established the necessary framework for substantially advancing the digital transformation, always with the aim of improving healthcare provision in Germany at all levels, building and providing the necessary background structures for a modern healthcare system and data-based medical care and, above all, simplifying peoples’ everyday routines and creating a concrete and tangible benefit for patients, physicians and all other healthcare providers.

Key projects in this context include the establishment of secure networks in the healthcare system (telematics infrastructure - TI), the introduction of the e-Health Card (eGK) and its applications, the introduction of the electronic patient record (ePA) and the electronic prescription (e-prescription), the new services offered through digital health applications(DiGA) and digital applications for long-term care (DiPA) for insurance holders and broader uses of video consultations and other services in the field of telemedicine.

Digitalisation Strategy for Health and Care

The Federal Ministry of Health has drafted an ambitious Digitalisation Strategy for Health and Care. In addition to a vision and aim for the digital transformation, the Strategy also sets out a regulatory framework and outlines the prerequisites for its successful, effective implementation.

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In 2015, the Act on secure digital communication and applications in the healthcare system (Gesetz für sichere digitale Kommunikation und Anwendungen im Gesundheitswesen - E-Health Act) has established the first framework for setting up the secure telematics infrastructure (TI) and introducing medical applications. Since that time, the digitalisation of the healthcare system has been advanced through various laws, including, for instance, the Appointment Service and Healthcare Supply Act (Terminservice- und Versorgungsgesetz - TSVG), The Act to Increase Security in Medicinal Product Supply (Gesetz für mehr Sicherheit in der Arzneimittelversorgung - GSAV), the Digital Services Act (Digitale-Versorgung-Gesetz - DVG) or the Patient Data Protection Act (Patientendaten-Schutz-Gesetz - PDSG), as well as through the Digital Services and Care Modernisation Act (Digitale-Versorgung-und-Pflege-Modernisierungs-Gesetz - DVPMG), which entered into force on 9 June 2021.

In addition to the development of infrastructure, digital services and applications, important parameters were set for the digital advancement of the healthcare system. These include: setting up the Health Data Lab (HDL) at the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, developing the gematik’s interoperability directory into a knowledge platform, putting the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in charge of developing the definition of Medical Information Objects and making the Federal Government a shareholder of the Society for Telematics Applications (gematik).

Concrete practical insights are also gained through the establishment of proving grounds for digital innovation in healthcare, for instance under the Innovation Fund or as part of the funded project ‘Digital Health Future Region (Zukunftsregion Digitale Gesundheit)’.

National Health Portal

Finally, the newly established National Health Portal provides German citizens with evidence-based, non-biased and easy-to-understand information on selected health topics, disease patterns and treatment options. This enables them to make informed decisions together with their doctor. The aim is to permanently raise awareness about health topics and thus contribute towards boosting health literacy and improving patient sovereignty.

The portal not only provides information on diseases, care benefits and patient rights, but also explains, among other things, the digital healthcare services available, such as the electronic patient record, digital health applications or telemedicine. This way, the health portal helps citizens to correctly assess the services offered, identify individual added values and understand and exploit the different innovation steps brought about by digitalisation for themselves.

Last change: 23. February 2024

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