In a guest column in a major German newspaper the Federal Minister of Health spoke clearly about digitalisation and networking in the German health care system. Under the title “Digitalisation need results – now!” he criticised blockages and delays in the introduction of the electronic health card (eGK).
The focal point: greater efficiency and quality of care
What is clear: considerable potential is still lying dormant where the digitalisation of healthcare is concerned. With the eGK the parties involved are promising an improvement of medical care also in rural areas, the rapid availability of X-rays or treatment reports, and a better network of medical specialists in the various disciplines.
Digital patient records ensure efficiency and safety
But what is also clear: all this is only really possible if treatment centres and hospitals are set up everywhere with the resources necessary to present patient records in a digital format. Eventually hospitals waste a lot of time with paper-based records. Time in which the doctor responsible for the treatment must, for example, operate in an emergency without having important information to hand.
Upon admission the patient’s record must now often still be sought in the physical archives and brought into the treatment room – possibly from one end of the hospital to the other. If the patient is moved within the building or to another hospital, the game begins once again. And if the record is possibly mislaid after the completion of the required therapy, in an emergency the information will not be available.
A high-performance infrastructure is not enough
It is to be hoped that the intention of the “digital agenda” of the Federal Government is to require, alongside the “high-performance network infrastructure”, that “ICT based applications to further improve the quality and efficiency of health care in urban and rural areas are also provided in practical terms to the people”.
For hospitals are often not only chronically underfunded. They are under immense pressure to conduct their business economically and profitably. At the same time they have to put in considerable effort with regard to the bureaucratic documentation required and must still ensure optimal care. Efficient digital patient records and a system for legally compliant long-term archiving are therefore urgently required. The hope remains that the political sphere does not lose sight of this when it comes to addressing challenges such as telemedicine and e-health.