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The handling of health data is finally changing

Michael Waldbrenner, Managing Director of Deutsche Telekom Clinical Solutions GmbH
Michael Waldbrenner, Managing Director of Deutsche Telekom Clinical Solutions GmbH

Michael Waldbrenner, Managing Director of Deutsche Telekom Clinical Solutions GmbH in DMEA-Goldpartner Interview

The Corona crisis has not only revealed the digitalization deficits of the German healthcare system. Among other things, it has also established citizens as key players in digital medical care via the Corona Warn App. "We shouldn't be lagging behind," says Michael Waldbrenner, Managing Director of Deutsche Telekom Clinical Solutions GmbH. He is looking forward to being able to hold talks again at the DMEA 2022 after three years –about the implementation of the Krankenhauszukunftsgesetzes (KHZG), amonth other things. With its revised iMedOne hospital information system, patient portals, cloud services and security solutions, Telekom is rolling out a wide range of eligible offers in many hospitals.

After three years of abstinence, the DMEA will be held live and in color again this year. How important is it to get together with customers after this involuntary break?

Due to the possibilities that we have today – keyword New Work – virtual collaboration has become part of everyday life. In some cases, we only concluded complete contracts virtually. But it is still extremely important to exchange physical information at least occasionally. And chance encounters like those that take place at a trade fair like the DMEA and from which something exciting can sometimes arise do not exist online. That's why I'm looking forward to the "live" DMEA.

What would you like to carry over into the post-pandemic era?

I have the impression that working with one another has become somewhat more relaxed and uncomplicated overall. I think that's very good. Video meetings are at least partially more effective and often better prepared. And then, of course, the environmental aspect: business trips have been significantly reduced, and with it the CO2 footprint. In addition, the saved business trips or trips to the office also make a significant contribution to the work-life balance. And in times when business and decisions are becoming faster and faster, that is one of the decisive factors for the performance of the employees. We have to keep it that way for future generations.

As far as healthcare is concerned, the corona pandemic has shown everyone that faster digitalization and networking are essential. Where do you see the greatest need for action?

The pandemic is a catalyst and has accelerated the digitalization of the healthcare system, not least at the political level. We saw many legislative initiatives. Some very effective, others not so much. From now on, these impulses must be translated into reality. But that is a challenge: there is enormous pressure on the system, especially in the hospital sector. On the one hand because of the very ambitious deadlines set out in the Hospital Future Act, or KHZG for short, and on the other hand because of the lack of skilled workers. The resources at the moment, both on the clinic side and on the provider side, are sometimes very thin. Irrespective of the utility sector, Germany still has some catching up to do when it comes to the cloud. It cannot be that state data protection officers reject cloud solutions in the clinical sector, although according to the KHZG they are explicitly eligible for funding. In addition, the security of the IT systems is a permanent challenge. The recent ransomware attacks have shown this once again. Hospitals can no longer protect their systems without the support of a provider specializing in security solutions. And last but not least, intersectoral networking must be improved.

There are still lots of areas to work on...

Absolutely. The telematics infrastructure as the highway of digitization is far from satisfactory. For example, the fact that the e-prescription failed so badly in its first attempt is embarrassing for a high-tech country like Germany. And solutions such as patient apps, with which insured persons can have their doctors send a fax, cause shakes of the head, and not just from me. Unfortunately, thanks to the pandemic, we know the subject of faxes from the public health service. At least digital interfaces are now being implemented there. However, this needs to be completed too. In summary: A lot of things have been pushed, but some things are only slowly starting to roll.

Where can Telekom contribute to acceleration?

Many providers at the DMEA were and are niche providers for hospital information systems, or HIS for short, or special solutions. All applications must be networked more closely. As a very broad provider, we – and therefore our customers – have it easier than others. When I look at the list of funding criteria in the KHZG, we cover around 80 percent of them. From HIS integration and patient involvement to security, cloud services and infrastructure. For example, if a customer says he doesn't want WiFi, we'll create a 5G campus solution. Other providers cannot do that.

The hospitals receive around 4.3 billion euros for digitization through the KHZG. How has this affected demand so far?

Patient portals are at the top of the wish list for applications. In addition, everything that has to do with digital documentation in a broader sense. A very important point is the involvement of patients and citizens. This has always been the focus for Deutsche Telekom. Change is slow to arrive in healthcare. The Corona-Warn-App (CWA) with its around 43 million downloads has brought many people into contact with digital supply processes. This is a basis that can – or indeed must – be built upon. Finally, the handling of health data is changing massively. With its health portfolio, Telekom can and will play an important role in the digitalization of the healthcare system in Germany. Both the patients and the service providers such as health insurance companies, the public sector, clinics, doctors and pharmacies to whom we offer our solutions will benefit from this.

A quick look ahead: Which topics will play a greater role in the future than they have in the past?

Primarily the internet of medical devices. The digital integration of devices in medical facilities and in patients will increase rapidly. AI solutions will evaluate the ever-growing pool of data and look for patterns. These help to improve care and reduce risks. This will come with an increasing shift of data and analytics to the cloud. In addition, thanks to the KHZG, the noticeable trend towards outsourcing IT services will continue.

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