Will 2022 be THE year for digital health in Germany?

It’s always good to subject your opinion and assessment to critical scrutiny. That’s why I wanted to know from my LinkedIn network what they think the chances are for digital health this year. We may (still) disagree about the timing of the big breakthrough. However, the vast majority believe that it will come. An analysis.

I have been a digital healthcare pioneer in Germany for several years now, and as such I am an optimist by profession. Perhaps that’s why I started the new year on an extremely positive note, because I believe it will be groundbreaking for the digital healthcare industry in Germany. On the one hand, this is a gut feeling, but of course it is based on the experience I have been able to gather over the years. I am also encouraged by digitization initiatives such as the KHZG or the feedback from the numerous healthcare industry discussions I have on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I was keen to find out what other experts had to say about it, so I launched a small survey here on LinkedIn. For one week, people could vote on whether 2022 will be THE year for digital health in Germany. A total of 121 votes were cast and the result was very close:

Unanimity: Digital Health is here to stay

Of course, this is not a representative survey. But this much can be revealed: Among the votes cast are some “high profile” healthcare professionals. So at this point, I’ll take the liberty of saying: the industry is unanimous, digital health is here to stay. And that’s not surprising. Because wherever progress offers tangible added value, relief or relief, it will be embraced. Or do you know anyone today who curses their smart phone (ok, sometimes) and wishes for the telephone cord and dial back in return?

Where I’m probably a little more optimistic than the majority of respondents is the outlook for the industry this year. Just under half think the breakthrough is still a long way off. But 40 percent agree with me that the signs for digital health are extremely good this year. Gesundheitsforen Leipzig GmbH also agrees with me. A trend dossier was published there in January of this year, explaining “Why 2022 will be the year for digital healthcare.”

The three main arguments there:

  1. economic policy is strongly driven by the introduction of innovative, ergo digital, technologies, especially at the European level. One can therefore assume a digitization push that will clarify fundamental questions about data sovereignty, data security, data standards and usability – important drivers for faster digitization in the healthcare sector.
  2. technological progress itself is the norm in a digital world, which the free market in healthcare applications already demonstrates.
  3. time – in recent years, digitization has entered so many areas of our daily lives that we have all become accustomed to it, and perhaps even come to appreciate it.

Digital health applications come to life

The external influences that Gesundheitsforen Leipzig lists in its dossier naturally play a decisive role. No patient today wants to be admitted to a clinic with a “briefcase” just because he or she keeps all the findings, doctor’s letters and MRI and X-ray images from the last few years there. No patient wants to record his or her vital signs in an analog diary. And no patient wants to wait for the next visit to be able to ask the doctors or nurses a question. Instead, all preliminary reports should be transmitted digitally, vital data and other parameters recorded via the app or transferred directly from the smartwatch, and questions can be asked via chat at any time. Why? Because we are used to this in so many other areas and industries, and our expectations have simply changed. The healthcare sector cannot escape this. But also because we notice that it makes a stay in the hospital or a visit to the doctor noticeably easier, perhaps even relieves tension, and thus – as numerous studies have repeatedly shown – also improves the quality of care.

At the same time, wherever digital solutions such as a patient portal are already in use, physicians and nurses are finding that, after an initially higher level of commitment – yes, changes always require an initial outlay – their workload is reduced, patient adherence increases, and better overall treatment results can be achieved. It is not without reason that the legislator has anchored the patient portal as a central funding item in the KHZG and, with DSGVO-compliant end-to-end encryption via Messenger, has created an important prerequisite for a new type of communication between the medical profession, nursing and patients.#

Changes from within the healthcare sector

And this is precisely the reason why I am starting the new year so optimistically overall: the pressure of digitization is no longer coming from outside only, so that the healthcare sector has to bow to it with virtually no chance. The advantages of digitization are being recognized more and more, which is why the desire for digitization from within is now also becoming clearly noticeable. Admittedly, only selectively and not across the board, and the challenges overall are still great. That’s why I can understand all those voices in my network who say that the big breakthrough for digital health in Germany will still take time. After all, solutions must always be user-friendly and work in everyday life. Or, to put it another way, anything that is simple will prevail. But at least 87 percent of those surveyed agree that the breakthrough of digital health will come – some just expect it a little sooner. In the end, however, it is up to us whether we make 2022 THE year of digital healthcare in Germany. Why? Because we can.