“Too many hospitals don’t have a digital strategy”

Long fuse, big bang – for CGM CEO Bernhard Calmer, the success of the KHZG is not a question, even if there are still some challenges to address until then.

Mr. Calmer, thanks to the KHZG, there is a spirit of optimism in the hospital world when it comes to digitization. How do you assess the economic stimulus program?

From my point of view, the KHZG is an incredible opportunity, because digitization in the healthcare sector has been very fragmented up to now. This is mainly because priority was given to implementing projects that either had a clear return on investment or were mandatory due to legislative requirements. So far, no attention has been paid to the big picture or the IT infrastructure. And that is exactly what the KHZG can address.

Are the funding pots really sufficient to initiate fundamental changes?

The KHZG is a very focused program and, as the saying goes, brings in an enormous amount of money in a relatively short period of time. To put the whole thing into perspective, we at the bvitg have conducted a survey on this. The total market for digitization in Germany, i.e. including outpatient clinics and rehabilitation facilities, is worth around 1.5 billion euros. If you subtract half of this for outpatient clinics and rehab, you are left with 750 million. If we now assume that about half of this has to be invested in the maintenance and care of the systems, this leaves a generous 375 million euros per year. This illustrates the thrust behind the 4.3 billion euros of the KHZG, which can now be invested in digital projects within three years.

However, when broken down to the individual hospitals in Germany, the total sum again seems quite manageable.

That is true, of course. However, it must first be noted that the legislator did not intend for all hospitals to receive a share of the funding. This is an issue that I would only like to touch on, as it is very complex – due to Germany’s federal structure and the future deduction of two percent on the invoice amount for each full and partial inpatient case. But even if we were to distribute the funding evenly among the approximately 2,000 hospitals in Germany, each hospital would still receive around 1.5 million euros for digitization projects. This sum can then either be spent on a Da Vinci surgical system, funding category 9, which happens to cost exactly this amount, or a digitization strategy can be developed that will also offer advantages for the respective hospital in the future.

Isn’t this exactly where the difficulty lies? Hospitals are already thinly staffed – often there is not even an IT manager, and external consultants and resources are currently in short supply.

In any case, the dilemma is that too many hospitals have no digital strategy. And because resources and consultants are in short supply, caution is needed here in the selection process. It is important that all sides – hospitals, solution providers and consultants – build up resources now. Because the KHZG also offers this possibility: clinics can finance the implementation of projects themselves from the funding pots. At some point, of course, you will have to take over the systems, but quite acutely, you can bring the support that is needed in-house and even get subsidies for it from the KHZG funding pot.

In other words, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the OR robot to at least qualify for funding, but now is the opportunity to implement projects that actually relieve the burden on the people who work in the clinics?

Put positively, the KHZG can do just that, yes.

What do you think it will take for KHZG funding to become exactly that positive contribution?

Since we have a very rudimentary starting point in terms of digitization, the KHZG will definitely make a positive contribution. In addition, a certain scattering loss is always factored into economic stimulus programs. It would certainly be good for the hospitals not to try to cover all eleven funding categories. However, this would bring us back to the overarching digitization strategy, for which either the human resources in-house, on the part of the service providers, or good external consultants are needed. So all parties involved still have some homework to do.

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