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“Digital tools must first prove their added value”

Jared Sebhatu, CEO of digital health transformation eG, is looking forward to creating the basis for the digitization of healthcare with the KHZG and dedicating himself and his team to truly innovative topics.

Jared, if we take a look at the current state of technology, it becomes clear that in healthcare in particular, there is a huge gap between what is possible and what is actually being implemented. Can this gap at least be reduced, or at best even closed, with the KHZG?

The KHZG has a clear objective: to modernize hospitals. That’s why I don’t think we’d do well to talk about disruption at this point, when we first need to establish a solid foundation. And that’s exactly how I interpret the KHZG: as start-up funding with concrete areas of application, some of them already established, which are now to be rolled out across the board. Once we have succeeded in doing that, which is already a major challenge, we can talk about innovations, perhaps even leap innovations.

So we are not yet talking about a digital healthcare system, even after the KHZG?

I am convinced that after the KHZG, hospitals will be able to think more digitally and implement digital processes. The foundation for this is currently being laid. We are still quite far away from a truly digital healthcare system.

How do you assess the timeline? Can the foundation you’re talking about be laid in the allotted time, given the sheer volume of work that’s coming at the hospitals at the same time?

To put it positively, it has to be said that this chunk of work is rolling in on everyone equally. But there is no question that the ambitious timeline is putting pressure on the system. And the relatively specific funding criteria also make the system very tight. So depending on the degree of digitization a company starts with, the timeline and corset are more or less ambitious and tight. Those that have been pursuing a digitization strategy for years will probably find it easier to plan and implement the KHZG projects. But here, too, the next weeks and months will certainly be challenging. On the other hand, those who started out on the famous “green field” first had to define project responsibilities and create resources. And that is only the first milestone. Things will get really exciting in the subsequent implementation phase. In principle, however, up to 4.3 billion is of course a fantastic investment in the future of the industry, and the KHZG creates a clear focus on digitization issues in hospitals. In retrospect, the funding will certainly be seen as an important milestone in a few years’ time.

So in five years, we’ll find a Chief Digital Officer in every hospital?

If I need him. I’m always very needs-oriented in that regard. Of course, it can be argued that a hospital that implements the minimum requirements with funding statuses 2 to 6 will have a lot to do in the next few years, so clear responsibilities and processes are needed within the organization for controlling these projects, for example. However, from my point of view, it is also not yet entirely clear what will come after the KHZG. After all, the digital tools that are being implemented now must also first justify the cost of introduction through the added value generated. We must not forget that there are reasons why many solutions, although available on the market for years, have not yet gained widespread acceptance. The question is, why? Is it just the financial resources, i.e., the investment backlog, or were there other reasons, such as the fact that the digitization of healthcare is simply an extremely complex topic. With the KHZG, we first resolve the lack of availability of financial resources and then certainly see more clearly where upcoming challenges lie.

Is one of those coming challenges perhaps the lack of patient-centeredness in healthcare?

In my opinion, the health care system is currently not patient-oriented, if only because of its structure, which is mainly due to the fact that the financing is the way it is. When everyone then talks about the need for more patient orientation, I like to ask the counter-question: What does that mean in concrete terms? For me, value-based healthcare is an exciting answer. This means that we include patients in the quality measurement of the care they receive and, in the best case scenario, also offer them a reimbursement system that takes these quality characteristics into account. There are already some very exciting approaches to this. I believe that this could lead to a real change toward a more patient-oriented healthcare system. But simply saying that we will introduce a patient portal and then be patient-centered will not change anything in the system and will not ultimately bring about any real orientation toward the patient.

After all, the KHZG was conceived and formulated very much from the patient’s point of view.

Absolutely. Making his or her relevant treatment data accessible makes a lot of sense. Patients are empowered to take a more active role in this decision-making that is highly relevant to them. But that’s why the post-KHZG healthcare system won’t be a fundamentally different one than we experience today. The defining parameters will remain unchanged, so it would be an exaggeration to proclaim a paradigm shift now.

What’s exciting about your position is that you preside over an alliance of hospitals that want to drive digital issues forward. Is your initiative related to the KHZG?

The initial idea and intention to found the cooperative were already in place before the KHZG. The official founding actually took place during the exciting KHZG phase, which was both a blessing and a curse for us. Our founding idea is simple: The digital transformation in the healthcare sector is in full swing, resulting in many challenges for the hospitals, some of which have neither competencies nor resources. And instead of trying to build these up in each hospital, the idea was to create a central point of contact that would take care of know-how and expertise. In conjunction with the KHZG, another massive dynamic has naturally developed here. Of course, the thematic framework is now also very narrow. Because I actually want to work on the potential in a healthcare system of the future. What business models can be established, and how might the role of the hospital as a central provider change? However, we cannot pursue these questions without losing sight of the current status, because the challenges are simply different at the moment. That’s why we have positioned ourselves from the outset in such a way that we can address both questions, i.e., on the one hand to support hospitals in addressing the challenges they currently face, and at the same time to prepare them for future challenges and, above all, interesting opportunities by looking to the future.