There’s no question that the KHZG brings a digitization boost for German hospitals – but not without challenges. And my interview partner Dr. Pascal Grüttner, Head of the IT Service Center at Hospitalvereinigung St. Marien GmbH and Vice Chairman of the Digital Health Germany association, is very realistic in his assessment.
Dr. Grüttner, thank you very much for taking the time for the premiere of our interview series on the KHZG. Our goal is to shed light on the current status quo of digitization in hospitals, but also to look at which topics are currently on the agenda and where things may still be sticking. So to start with, here’s the question:
Will digitization in German hospitals gain momentum with the KHZG?
It certainly will – but that is not difficult. After all, Germany is clearly a developing country when it comes to hospital IT, as studies have repeatedly shown. So any support can only move the German hospital landscape forward. However, the KHZG is also associated with risks – firstly, because the number of providers with suitable, tried-and-tested, eligible solutions on the market is manageable in many areas. On the other hand, the text of the law contains many very strong MUST criteria, which – interpreted negatively – simply does not take sufficient account of reality.
On the positive side, however, strong MUST criteria also ensure that investments are now being made in strong solutions that ultimately lead to better patient care.
That is true, of course. But they must not be viewed in isolation from the current situation. Of course, the government is also trying to put pressure on the industry. However, some of the MUST criteria are almost too demanding, so that various hospitals are bound to fail.
Are the challenges for some hospitals really that great?
I think so, which is partly due to the tight timeframe of the KHZG. Of course, there are extremely strong hospitals that are already very far along in terms of digitization. And then there are those that are still largely paper-based. Even for ePA, you need WLAN in the building, which sounds banal, but it’s not standard everywhere. This means that, in addition to the technology, the processes and the ways of thinking and working must also be fundamentally changed. The basis for this would first be an analysis of the current situation, which alone can take many months. That doesn’t leave much time for implementing projects that are eligible for funding. In addition, the question arises: Who should implement such a project and where should the hospitals find all the experts to support them in sustainable digitization?
So the possibilities of the KHZG must be evaluated more critically after all?
More realistically in any case. You can currently sense a certain gold-rush mood, which is dangerous. In addition, the tight time frame is tempting us to make provisional arrangements. However, it is also clear that digital care processes must not have any gaps. I therefore wonder how much thought is being given to sustainability and risk management during implementation. After all, the digital processes introduced with the KHZG must run – and for a long time.
Because you mentioned the low provider density in the area of digital health at the beginning: Is Germany also a developing country here?
I think we have a parallel construction site here and can basically state that we could do better. There are enough good ideas in the country and also various funding programs for startups – but in my view there are also two major hurdles: We are far too cautious and there is too much bureaucracy.
The KHZG in particular is praised by many for its minimum of bureaucracy.
We haven’t written any applications yet, but the requirements for reporting needs to the respective federal state are indeed manageable. In principle, therefore, I am also convinced that many good projects can be implemented with KHZG funding. However, it is only a first step so that Germany can hopefully shed its status as a developing country.