COVID-19: 'A turbo-boost to advance digitisation'

One of the largest university hospitals in Europe is turbo-charging its use of apps and online consultations to support patients during this crisis. Interoperability is clearly the key, as digitised processes are paying off.
By Cornelia Wels-Maug
02:17 AM

Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin has benefitted from having digital processes in place in order to combat the urgent requirements caused by COVID-19 according to Dr Peter Gocke, chief digital officer (CDO) of the German hospital. During the latest 'Talking Points' webinar hosted by the HIMSS D-A-CH Community, he also reflects on how the vendor community can best support healthcare providers. 

WHY IT MATTERS

In times of a crisis it is imperative that existing solutions can be adapted to support needs effectively, rather than having to purchase new ones, says Gocke, who is also a member of the Board of Directors at HIMSS.

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Furthermore, rather than coming up with solutions that support a small part of a workflow and deploying vendor-specific data formats, he urges industry players to focus on providing solutions that integrate data across the different points of care they were generated whilst using existing data standards like SNOMED and LOINC. He calls for the development of platforms that allow the joint use of structured data in real-time instead of systems centred on exchanging documents.

Above all, Gocke advocates connecting the patient rather than focusing solely on establishing a network of healthcare providers. For this he suggests the creation of secure digital channels to patients, as he sees the patients’ role as guardians of their medical data as unchanged – even in a digital era. Gocke believes that in a federate healthcare system, such as the German one, hospitals still advcate that patients provide their medical data to healthcare facilities.

Gocke, who also holds the position of a digital transformation officer, acknowledges how digitasation efforts, along with integrating clinical, administrative and educational processes over the last few years are currently paying off. The existing VPN infrastructure could be expanded to accommodate the creation of home office capabilities for administrators and investment into the collaboration platform ‘Microsoft Teams’ has also been a shrewd move. Moreover, the implementation of an online training platform for students that now allows for 90% of classes delivered online has also proved to be successful.

Charité’s online video-consultation platform as well as its telepresence solution have witnessed a significant expansion over the last few weeks during the coronavirus outbreak. The most prominent outcome of the crisis, however, is Charité’s COVID-19 app, the so-called CovApp that allows consumers to establish whether they need to be tested by simply answering a few questions online.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

As the COVID-19 pandemic continuous to spread, hospitals’ abilities to cope with an onrush of infected cases have been challenged. Even after COVID-19 will have released its grip, other viruses will continue plaguing us, says Gocke. Hence, he urges that those structures quickly set up during the current crises should be evaluated and reconfigured to be ready for deployment in a future emergency.

ON THE RECORD

“The pandemic has told us how much patients benefit from apps. It is a kind of turbo-boost to advance our efforts around digitisation," Gocke says.

He concludes: “My main learnings from the coronavirus crisis so far have been of a technical nature: We need open and transparent communication to address structures and processes that are no longer working. Furthermore, it is effective to delegate projects to smaller teams and cut red tape. That’s how we managed to ramp up our online video clinic. Two staff members and three students set up 150 workstations and trained colleagues within 3 weeks.”

The 'Talking Points' webinar with Dr Peter Gocke, chief digital officer, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, was moderated by Armin Scheuer, VP of Business Development, HIMSS International and hosted by the HIMSS D-A-CH Community - The full recording is available in German here.

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