Shaping the Process of Digitisation: Germany Needs an E-Health Strategy

While CDU/CSU announced in their election manifesto to develop a cross-departmental e-health roadmap “Digital Health 2030”, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen advocate the development of a “strategy for digitisation” involving all “users of the health care system”. Irrespective of the actual project name: Appropriate initiatives are crucial in order to further advance the digitisation of healthcare in Germany. A coordinated approach by all stakeholders is vital to reduce fears, overcome blockade mentality and exploit the full potential of digital solutions.

When the Bertelsmann Foundation published its international comparative study #SmartHealthSystems in 2018, the digitisation of the German health care system was still in its infancy. The results were correspondingly sobering: In a comparison of 17 countries, Germany ranked second to last. According to the authors of the study, this gap cannot be explained by missing technology or a limited innovation potential. Rather, there is a lack of an overarching strategic orientation, a coordinating institution and a determined political leadership.

However, a lot has happened in the last three and a half years. At the beginning of the current legislative period, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn made digitisation of health care a priority and established a corresponding department within the ministry. With the Digital Health Care Act (DVG), the Patient Data Protection Act (PDSG), the Hospital Future Act (KHZG) and the Digital Health Care Modernisation Act (DVPMG), a legal framework has been created over the past few years to introduce a large number of e-health solutions. These include, for example, the electronic patient file, electronic prescriptions, digital health applications reimbursed by insurers (“DiGa”) and the electronic certificate of incapacity to work.

In the coming months, the focus must lie on driving forward the nationwide roll-out of these applications. Only then will digitisation provide genuine added value for patient care.

An important step on this path - with the involvement of all stakeholders affected - is the development of a national e-health strategy that is oriented towards the patients’ needs. On the one hand, this strategy should define an overarching e-health vision, on the other hand it needs to specify measures to improve the digital health literacy of citizens, to increase the acceptance of e-health applications and to measure and evaluate the digital maturity of the German health care system.

Widespread acceptance and implementation of digital solutions are only conceivable if all relevant stakeholders are involved and “pull together” - a joint e-health strategy would be an essential foundation for this. As an online pharmacy and provider of digital health services, we are happy to contribute our expertise and technical know-how to the ongoing political and social discourse.