A joint task – and ours

Data security, information security and data privacy in healthcare were the hot topics in June. At this point, I don’t want to go too much in search of clues, analyze reasons or even point the finger in any direction. On the contrary. I have a constructive suggestion: let’s work together.

In June, apetito, the food supplier for retirement homes and hospitals, was hit: Denial of Service – out of service. As the company itself announced, it no longer has access to its IT-based systems following a cyber attack. The bad thing about this from my point of view – and thus the reason why I am taking up this topic for Quo Vadis Digital Health in June: It can affect anyone. We remember a similar attack on CompuGroup Medical at the end of last year. Because regardless of the industry, cybersecurity and hackers are in a permanent arms race – which means there is no such thing as one hundred percent security and probably never will be.

Yet IT security is just one of the issues we need to address more intensively as healthcare goes digital. At least as relevant: Data privacy and information security. While the Berlin data protection authorities are investigating the allocation of appointments for Corona vaccinations, the KBV Bremen is the first association of panel doctors to abolish the fax for personal data without further ado. Reason: not DSGVO-compliant. This step is exciting for two reasons. First, the GDPR already excludes faxing if a document contains a name, for example, and second, the Europe-wide regulation has been in force since 2018. So we can be curious when other players in the healthcare sector will also recognize this dilemma.

Digital health at the crossroads?

But that’s not what I want to talk about here today. What I am concerned with is user trust. And from my point of view, the above points indicate that we are at a sensitive juncture that will determine the direction in which the further digitization of healthcare will develop.

Because let’s not kid ourselves: As a digital healthcare specialist, you may be breathing a sigh of relief these days that your own IT systems have not been hit or that you yourself have been targeted by the data protection authorities. However, this should not obscure the fact that we are all in the same boat. With every negative report, with every attack on critical infrastructure, with every potential data leak, we always lose a little trust among users – and by we, I mean the industry as a whole.

This is fatal insofar as we in the healthcare sector did not necessarily enter the race with a huge leap of faith. On the contrary: Germans in particular are quite distrustful with regard to their health data. While it is more or less accepted that private e-mail addresses are only private to a limited extent, people in this country do not want to accept this circumstance when it comes to health data – and rightly so. Of course, we can now discuss the degree of data protection in non-digital solutions. But that does not reduce the initial skepticism of users. It is therefore all the more important that we allow the tender seedling called trust in digital health to blossom and not nip it in the bud.

The principle of insurance

The fact that we are all in the same boat can support us in this. What I’m alluding to is the “maritime loan” of the Greeks, dating back some 3,000 years before Christ and the basis for understanding our insurance today. Even then, shipowners recognized that it was wiser to transfer the risk of losing a ship and thus its valuable cargo to a risk pool. No matter whose ship did not survive the crossing in one piece, the community paid for it as a whole.

This is not to say that we as an industry should now compete with the insurance industry, no, cobbler stick to your last. However, we should consider how we can face the challenges together. And in my view, this can be done much better with cooperation, partnership and collaboration than on our own. This is an appeal to share experiences, expertise and ideas. Let’s have joint hackathons, let’s talk about attacks and vectors, let’s work together on solutions. Because only if we as an industry stand for the highest level of security and work together on a good reputation, can we convince the medical profession, the nursing staff, the administrative management, the IT department and ultimately the patients of our ideas, approaches and solutions.

Profitability and partnerships are not mutually exclusive

Of course, every company starts out with the goal of profitability, and to a certain extent there is always competition within an industry. However, I think that we are moving into a time in which high market entry barriers, silos or compartmentalization no longer lead to the goal. We are breaking new ground in so many places that cooperation is becoming a classic win-win. Or to put it another way: If users do not trust new technologies and digital solutions in healthcare, everyone loses. We should think about this and work together. Because here, too, we have an incredible opportunity. And why not take a completely new path when you’re moving off the beaten track anyway?