Getting to the bottom of E in E-Health

Since the Act on secure digital communication and applications in the health care system (E-Health Act) has been passed, there have been some developments to be talked about. One way to do this is the conference conhIT in Berlin, that every year connects exactly these two topics: Health and IT. To speak with the words of Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe: "Digital networking can save lives and it empowers patients. Thanks to the E-Health Act, we are creating the essential basis for doing so.“

ConhIT largely concerned itself with the question of what comes after the establishment of the framework and how is it actually filled with life. Companies were presenting their ideas and important topics were discussed like: patient empowerment, IT security, documentation and bureaucracy, etc.

What does Health need the E for?

The event very vividly showed how many pressing topics are hovering around E-Health and why healthcare does indeed need the "E". A variety of purposes and goals are served by digitalizing healthcare more, some of those being: the communication of patient data between different healthcare professionals, requesting diagnostic tests and treatments electronically and receiving the results, electronic transmission of prescriptions, protocols and standards for healthcare professionals, treatments at a distance, consumer health information, knowledge transfer, virtual teams, appointment scheduling, patient data management, work schedule management and other administrative tasks. All these tasks sound rather promising when trying to improve healthcare.

Concerns and challenges around E-Health

When the E-Health Act was discussed in Germany, some major concerns came up quite quickly showing some of the big challenges surrounding E-Health. A very big and particularly German one concerned data security. Questions were quickly raised that data protection regulations had to be respected by all involved parties (especially the software developers and providers) and how that was to be made sure. Also the technical requirements for the data transfers are yet to be fully mastered and established, making the Act more of a framework than a detailed map. Of course there are a large number of stakeholder involved in E-Health and it needs to be clear who the stakeholders are and whether or not they are evenly included. Patients need to be involved just as doctors, hospitals, hardware and software developers and so forth. Just to accommodate all these different interests it takes regulations just as it needs innovation. Because after all it’s definitely a good thing that the industry and politics are realizing the potential of digitalization in the healthcare industry and prepare to make it happen. But the actual “making it happen” we need to do ourselves.

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