Slowly but surely – Healthcare’s path to digitalization
Lack of marketability and sobering failures – after decades of pilot projects and the failed health card, strong drivers of progress entered the stage in recent years. One catalyst was the pandemic: it spurred the adoption of technology such as video patient consultations as well as tele-intensive care support for out-of-center hospitals. The Virtual Hospital NRW is a shining example here: experts in university hospitals in Aachen and Münster advised their colleagues in hospitals in rural NRW. The goal of using tele-intensive medicine to bring expertise to the regions and thus enable quality care locally was achieved.
The drivers of digitalization
Legal requirements were another driver of progress. In particular, the Hospital Future Act (Krankenhauszukunftsgesetz KHZG) provided an enormous boost to digitalization: The federal and state governments are funding the modernization of infrastructure and applications in hospitals with a total of 4.3 billion euros. The level of maturity is determined twice during the multi-year funding period, the model for measuring this is called DigitalRadar.
The KHZG approach consists of carrots and sticks: Those who do not invest or cannot demonstrate the expected IT enforcement at the end of the funding period will face sanctions. They are announced in the form of deductions of around two percent on hospital bills. The German Hospital Federation (DKG) and the GKV-Spitzenverband (GKV-SV) are developing a criteria grid for determining the level of enforcement above which no sanctions are to be applied.
In addition to the KHZG, other mandatory requirements play a role in digitalization. These include the electronic patient file – which healthcare providers must fill with treatment documentation – and the telematics infrastructure, which is intended to enable the secure exchange of patient information among healthcare providers. Another obligation is the “electronic transaction transfer agreement” (eVV). The DKG and GKV-SV have agreed on this agreement, which regulates direct electronic communication between hospitals and the Medical Service (MD), which receives inspection orders for hospital invoices from health insurance companies. Within this framework, hospitals must, among other things, digitally transmit argumentation-supporting documents on patient cases to the MD – structured according to document types.
For hospitals, such requirements represent a major challenge. For example, the naming of document types is handled completely differently from hospital to hospital, what is called a doctor’s letter in one hospital is called a discharge letter in another. And on the part of the MD, its own nomenclature again comes into play.
You can read more about the other factors that play a role on the path to digitalization in our next blog post, “How digitalization can succeed in healthcare.