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Gottfried Ludewig, head of the health division at T-Systems

“We have to continue the digital race to catch up”

Digitalization through individual applications only works to a limited extent in the healthcare sector. As in other sectors, the trend is towards integrated data rooms. Gottfried Ludewig, head of the health division at DMEA gold partner T-Systems, knows how the digital healthcare sector of the future should look and what role digital identities, artificial intelligence and the metaverse will play.

The DMEA 2023 is just around the corner. Why does a digital company need an in-person trade fair?

Gottfried Ludewig: With all good digital formats, personal interactions remains important. It's different if I communicate via video windows or meet people face-to-face. We just saw that at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and it will be similar at the DMEA. The anticipation is great, we expect exciting discussions with customers, with potential new customers, but also with partner companies and politicians. I expect it to be crowded and lively.

The digital hospital is the big topic of every DMEA, and in terms of health policy there is currently no way around hospitals. How has Telekom's hospital business developed? And what do you expect from the forthcoming hospital reform?

Gottfried Ludewig: We are continuously growing with our hospital information system (HIS) iMedOne. We also see a growing demand for innovative digital solutions of all kinds in the hospital market. Interoperability remains a technical challenge. We have one of the most open and interoperable HIS systems on the market. We see progress on this subject, partly as a result of laws such as the Hospital Future Act (KHZG), but we would like to see a little more. It should now be a matter of continuing the digital race to catch up in the hospital sector, initiated by the KHZG and the pandemic. Hospital reform can also play a role in this. So far, however, the topic of digitalization has unfortunately not played a role there.

As you mentioned, the hospitals are perhaps not yet in the digital fast lane, but they are improving. Telematics infrastructure, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. How do we finally go up through the gears?

Gottfried Ludewig: We’ve made progress in that area too. The fact that the new telematics infrastructure (TI) relies on digital identities is a giant step forward. This will simplify many TI applications and make exciting new applications possible, such as the TI Messenger, which will enormously advance communication between medical institutions and patients. The federal government also mentioned it prominently in its digital strategy. It is important that the regulators enable realistic login procedures and make them permanent. Only then will the much-cited opt-out ePA, the new generation of electronic patient files, be a success. Opting out alone is not enough if the registration and later use is so cumbersome that nobody does it.

Digital identities are to be issued by the health insurance companies in the healthcare sector. Why are these identities so crucial? And when are they coming?

Gottfried Ludewig: The situation today is that we see digital “breaks” in the healthcare system wherever it really matters. People have to walk to branches, application forms have to be printed out, cards have to be held up to mobile phones, or what feels like 17-digit PINs have to be entered. Secure digital identities help to overcome this situation. If we want digital processes to prevail, they are an essential factor. I can't give you an exact launch date. However, the specification of gematik is now available. We are currently developing corresponding ID solutions for the first health insurance companies and are confident that the topic will take off as soon as possible.

Let’s imagine a visit to the DMEA in five years’ time: HIS from the cloud, AI chatbots as the first point of contact for patients, medicine in the metaverse – is this the future?

Gottfried Ludewig: We will see more and more applications from the cloud. But the ultimate goal is that we use the cloud to improve medical care. That's the mega trend for me. This requires not only applications, but also interoperable data rooms in which patient data can be made securely accessible. This is no different in the healthcare sector than in the manufacturing industry. As Telekom, we are leaders here, including in consortia such as Catena-X, in which we support the automotive industry in establishing data rooms and implementing use cases. We are also happy to bring this experience and knowledge to the healthcare sector. The topics of cloud and AI only become really exciting with powerful data rooms.

How is Deutsche Telekom positioning itself for this future?

Gottfried Ludewig: We are involved in a large number of highly innovative projects, either directly or through partners. For example, we are working with health insurance companies on AI-based applications that aim to prevent the need for care by identifying certain risk constellations at an early stage. In another project that we are supporting, hospitals are using AI applications to identify people at high risk of blood poisoning at an early stage. Preventative medicine, the whole fundamental shift away from treating the sick, towards maintaining health, is crying out for AI. And as far as the topic of metaverses is concerned: This can be very interesting, for example, in medical training. Here, too, we are involved in an exciting cooperation project with partners. We look forward to helping shape this future and showing how much digitalization can support better healthcare.