Healthcare transformation: 'We need to shift our mindset'

Digital leaders from Singapore, the Netherlands, Finland and more met in Berlin this week to talk about the transformation of their health systems.
By Philipp Grätzel von Grätz
02:26 AM

Source: Marc-Steffen Unger/Uta Wagner

Change on many levels urgently required: This was the message brought forward at the Health 2019 conference of HIMSS and Handelsblatt in Berlin. Innovation-prone digital leaders from all over the world showed that healthcare transformation is doable and success measurable.

“Healthcare is moving beyond disease towards preserving health, it is moving beyond hospitals towards community-based care, and beyond quality towards value”, said Dr Eugene Fidelis Soh, CEO of Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore. “Today we are still thinking very hospital-centric. We need to shift our mindset from patients to populations and define hospitals not by numbers of beds but by population served.”

The Singapore healthcare system was trying to move along this trajectory, according to Soh. Hospitals in Singapore have been supplemented by 80 community health posts that are digitally connected to the hospitals. Nurses in these community health posts look after patients post discharge, so that in-house treatment can be minimised. The barriers between ambulatory and hospital sector care are vanishing, and inside of the hospital, various AI tools and digitalised standard operating procedures allow for a much more coordinated patient management than before.

Healthcare data: citizens need total control

Several European countries, too, are making considerable progress on their healthcare transformation journeys. “The two main success factors in Estonia were data exchange platforms that are universally available and giving citizens the total power and control over their data”, said Kalle Killar, Deputy Secretary General, E-services and Innovation at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia. “Estonian citizens can see who uses their healthcare data at any time, and they have the possibility to turn off the use of digital data whenever they want.”

For the Netherlands, Ron Roozendaal, Director of Information Policy and CIO at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, talked about a specific example of digitally enhanced patient care, ambulatory heart failure telemonitoring. Implementing this in the Netherlands has led to a considerable reduction in acute care visits, ambulance calls and hospital stays, Roozendaal said.

Countries like Germany that have been lagging behind others in digitally transforming care in recent years should take a close look at the successful examples in other countries, said Dr Gottfried Ludewig, head of the department of digitisation and innovation at the German Ministry of Health. Germany is currently embarking on an ambitious healthcare digitization program driven by the Ministry of Health: “The good news is that we are still capable to catch up. But we have to stop talking and take action.”

European data space to become a main topic

Ludewig announced that with Germany taking over the presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2020, the creation of a European data space will be placed high on the agenda, and that the emerging European data space in healthcare and beyond will be a major topic of the new European Commission, led by Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen. Specifically, a code of conduct will help healthcare systems and national and regional governments to interpret the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “This will help us to better understand what is allowed and not allowed. Personally, I don’t consider the GDPR a stopping point for innovation,” said Ludewig.

This was echoed by Roozendaal who went as far as saying that in his opinion, emphasising privacy could in fact a driver for innovation in Europe. Dr Sinikka Salo, Leader of Change, Permanent Secretary’s Cabinet, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Government in Finland, suggested that other countries might take a look at the recent Finnish act on the secondary use of healthcare data in order to see how strict privacy rules and innovation-friendly regulation can go hand in hand: “A legislation like this can provide an answer to many GDPR questions. In Finland, legislation has played a big role in creating trust in the digital health data space.”

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.