Innovations should reach people faster in the future. The focus is on personalized medicine and digital innovations. Data analyzes are intended to advance research and improve care practice.
Digitization will help strengthen people’s health, improve health care, and pressure healthcare professionals. These opportunities are still not being used enough in this country. Still, in the future, Germany should become a pioneer in Europe when introducing digital innovations into the health system. The federal government is showing the way there is a roadmap for digital health innovations.
This development must be designed carefully because health data is sensitive and particularly worth protecting. Data protection and data security are of paramount importance in medicine. This requires a broad discussion about digital health innovations: actors from research, healthcare and society must agree on ethical and legal standards. This open discourse must be accompanied scientifically.
Use data resources to improve care and research
Care data that is routinely generated in everyday clinical practice is an excellent treasure for health research: Linking data sets from research (e.g. biobanks, gene databases, data from studies) and patient care can reveal connections, for example, between individual genes, lifestyles and diseases. This allows new patient-relevant knowledge to be gained.
The medical informatics initiative funded by the BMBF is at the heart of research on digitization in the health sector. In the next few years, the German university hospitals and their partners from science, business and healthcare should network. It aims to lay the foundation for cross-location networking and further use medical data to improve patient care.
The BMBF also supports developing new methods with which researchers can gain new knowledge from complex data worlds. This includes the development of innovative computer-aided methods and bioinformatic analysis tools.
Electronic health records
Electronic patient files are of immediate benefit to people in regular care. When made usable for science, they can lead to a leap in quality in research and help better understand the origin of diseases and develop innovative prevention and treatment concepts.
The Federal Government will work together with science, business, society and all stakeholders in the health system to ensure that research-compatible, electronic patient files are available at all German university hospitals by 2025. The care-centred, cross-facility electronic patient files for which the secure telematics infrastructure in the healthcare system is a prerequisite provide critical support for this. The focus is on patient benefit, and data protection and data security are guaranteed.
Artificial intelligence in medicine
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an essential driver of the digital revolution. Health research and health care are already essential fields of application. AI is particularly well developed, for example, in the evaluation of medical image recordings. The field of “Computational Photonics”, the combination of modern photonic processes with fast and intelligent data analysis, promises significant innovations for medicine. The possible uses of AI are diverse:
- By analyzing several thousand medical histories, computer programs can learn, for example, to individually predict the course of illness and therapy. From genetic analyses and image data, they can calculate a tumour’s aggressiveness and predict whether radiation or chemotherapy is more promising.
- AI systems will also optimize processes in the operating room. Surgeons who perform sophisticated interventions under the microscope can use voice or gesture control to request information that then appears in the ocular of the surgical microscope.
- Intelligent assistance systems support people with limited mobility – for example, after a stroke – with exercise therapy as required, i.e. as little as possible, but as much as necessary (“Assist-as-needed”). To do this, the systems must be geared towards the individual skills and needs of people.
Such innovations also hold great potential for companies in the healthcare industry. The Federal Government will play a key role in shaping these developments through the “Artificial Intelligence” strategy and will mainly focus on transferring to healthcare and nursing.
Digitization in medical technology
The digitization of medical technology harbours many new opportunities and possibilities for diagnosis and therapy, monitoring and aftercare of patients, and controlling medical processes.
Surgical instruments are becoming increasingly intelligent thanks to sensors and software; for example, scalpels recognize their position in the body and warn the surgeon in good time before healthy tissue is at risk.
Telemedicine enables medical monitoring and treatment even when patients are not in the hospital or the practice. In the medical technology specialist program, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has focused on digital medical technology solutions that improve health care: New digital medical procedures and services are to be established and optimized.
These include digital therapies, digital therapy support systems and digitized supply chains. The networking of the medium-sized medical technology industry with the information and communication technology industry is accelerated so that more innovative medical technology solutions for digital health care can emerge.