For Anke Diehl, MD, of Essen University Hospital, digitization means bringing different opinions and disciplines to the table. And the KHZG can now be the first step in this direction for many hospitals.
Dr. Diehl, first of all, congratulations on your new position. From digital change manager to head of the Digital Transformation staff unit. Is that a clear sign of how important digitization is for your company?
Thank you very much for your congratulations. Indeed, the establishment of a dedicated staff unit once again underscores the importance of digitization for Essen University Hospital. We have been working very intensively on this topic since 2015, when our Medical Director Prof. Dr. Jochen A. Werner initiated it. It was clear to him that digitization is the key to being able to continue to work intelligently and in a future-oriented manner. I myself have been in Essen for three years now and am delighted to be able to think and allow new processes, above all, in my new position. We have to learn to bring different disciplines and opinions to the table and discuss them together at eye level. This is the only way to have the courage to think differently about processes and thus ensure progress and innovation.
But not all hospitals and facilities are as far advanced in digitization as you are in Essen. Can the KHZG help here?
There is no question that the digitization of the German healthcare system is very poor in many places, and the need to catch up is immense. That’s precisely why I’m convinced that the KHZG is a great incentive to tackle the issue now and drive it forward – for all hospitals.
From your experience: Can digitization really deliver what it promises, i.e., an increase in efficiency for the hospitals and thus better care for patients?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes. In Germany, we need modern technology such as artificial intelligence to improve care and to be able to work more efficiently. It’s also about conserving resources. At the end of the day, healthcare is always about patients. We need time and capacity for our core process of direct patient care. This is precisely why we need to invest in systems that, for example, simplify and automate documentation, make admission and discharge management more efficient, and break down data silos. Otherwise, this will tie up time that we urgently need for empathetic medicine.
In other words, digitization frees up personnel resources that can then be used for the benefit of patients.
That is the ideal case. Even before the pandemic, it was clear that there was a shortage of nursing staff and doctors. However, efficiently designed digital processes can not only free up resources, they also underline the fact that this is a modern hospital that is well positioned for the future – an attractive employer that offers its staff a future-proof working environment. This is another factor for hospitals that should not be underestimated, and one that can now be realized with the KHZG.
Whereby it is clear that the support provided by the KHZG is only a first step, isn’t it?
A first, necessary step that – once taken – must inevitably be followed by a path. This is precisely why the KHZG measures the digital maturity of a hospital and may penalize it with budget cuts starting in 2025 if its maturity level does not meet the specifications by then. Take a look at the immunization frontrunner Israel. In my opinion, Corona vaccination works so well there partly because the country has a highly digital healthcare system. In the long term, we have to learn to use modern technology to be able to respond better to the circumstances.
In your view, what still needs to improve in Germany so that we don’t miss the boat internationally and can maintain the overall high quality of healthcare at this level?
In my opinion, we need to rethink the protection of health data in particular. There is no question that health data are sensitive and absolutely worth protecting. There is no doubt about that. The only thing is that data protection must not be pushed so far that at the end of the day new solutions can no longer offer any added value because they are so restricted. Progress also means, for example, that artificial intelligence can discover new risk factors in existing data – but it must have the opportunity to evaluate the data. Here again, reference is made to colleagues in Israel, such as Eyal Ziemlichman from the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, who impressively demonstrate how patients benefit from a high level of digitization in terms of care, diagnostics, and also safety.