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Digital Health

Digital transformation has fully taken hold of the healthcare sector and has come at just the right moment. Because of the large number of important medical decisions and the associated impact on patients’ quality of life, the healthcare sector is in urgent need of the possibilities offered by digitalization. After all, patient care often happens under high workloads, time constraints, complex paperwork, and an ever-changing job profile for medical staff. Also, the increasing aging of the population, the rise in chronic diseases, and the explosion of costs in the healthcare sector pose an enormous challenge for the healthcare system. Digital innovation seems to be the only and viable solution to all these difficulties. Digitalization is shifting the focus away from individual healthcare to a networked, global mindset. In the future, communication and information technologies will help to improve the electronic processing of communication, information, and data acquisition for medical care, documentation, and treatments in the healthcare sector, to provide ideal and individualized patient care.

What does digital health mean?

 

Digital health describes the combination of medicine and technology. It serves as a collective term for various technological innovations and applications in the healthcare sector. This ranges from hospital management and electronic health records to health apps and fitness trackers. For doctors, digitalization in the healthcare system is great support, as it can facilitate the diagnosis of complex diseases, analysis and interpretation of patient-related data, and treatment of diseases using artificial intelligence (AI). Digital health can also support patients in their everyday lives through monitoring sensors, rehabilitation robotics for people with disabilities, or long-term care.

What are the digital areas in healthcare?

 

health IT: it deals with the design, development, creation, use, and maintenance of healthcare information systems. It deals with the application of information processing, storage, retrieval, and use of data for communication and decision-making in healthcare. 

 

e-Health: stands for electronic health, which merges the three industries of medicine, IT, and healthcare management. It serves as an umbrella term for electronic health records, electronically supported disease, and knowledge management, and personally delivered healthcare for the diagnosis, monitoring, consultation, appointments, and prescriptions.

 

m-Health: stands for mobile health and refers to the use of smartphone or tablet apps to support medical processes. This includes, for example, the determination of vital signs such as blood glucose or body temperature, but also communication or motivational applications designed to remind people to take medication, among other things

Telemedicine: describes the provision of healthcare services and medical education over a distance, using information and communication technology. All healthcare providers can be involved in the delivery of telemedicine. 

Health Smart Home (HSH): describes the equipping of the living space of people with special needs for healthcare purposes. The aim is to increase patient/resident safety by monitoring and controlling the immediate physical environment with a focus on health status.

How will digital health develop?

 

The first steps in the digitalization of the German healthcare system have been set 2019 in motion by various legal measures. In addition to electronic prescriptions and electronic patient files with smartphone or tablet access, the new laws also enable the establishment of a telematics infrastructure to which service provider groups (midwives, physiotherapists, and care facilities) can voluntarily connect. With the help of these measures, the German Federal Ministry of Health would like to enable medical prescriptions for prescription drugs to be issued only electronically via the telematics infrastructure from 2022. But for this to happen, good digital services must be available promptly and services such as video consultations, electronic prescriptions, and the electronic patient file must become a natural part of everyday care. Another step in digitalization is the expansion of artificial intelligence. 

What are the obstacles to digitalization?

 

Before healthcare providers can realize the enormous potential of digitalization, several obstacles must be overcome – from efficient processing of the growing flood of data to better integration and education of the population. Physicians need new tools to process the flood of medical data quickly and accurately. Artificial intelligence capabilities provide the critical foundation for efficient decision support in routine clinical practice. Acceptance and trust are elementary prerequisites for advancing digital healthcare. That is why it is important to educate and create understanding for digital solutions in healthcare. This does not only apply to doctors, psychotherapists, and other service providers. It is equally important to build and strengthen the (digital) health literacy of patients. More and more people are informing themselves about health issues on the Internet. But one in two faces problems in finding their way around the healthcare system, evaluating information, and making the right decisions in the face of an increasing wealth of information. The goal of digitalization should be to sustainably increase health knowledge and thus help make it more user-friendly and modern.

What prospects does digitalization promise?

 

Digitalization promises to improve patient care while increasing efficiency in the healthcare system and also reducing costs. It can close information gaps, avoid misdiagnoses, improve prevention, and individualize diagnostics and therapy. Digitalization thus represents a huge growth market from both a medical and an economic perspective. In an international comparison, the U.S. and China are currently leading in the state of healthcare digitalization and innovation, as they are already dominant in other high-tech industries. In this context, Artificial intelligence represents a technological megatrend. It could be shown that in more than 2/3 of the companies in Germany AI is classified as important or even essential. Intending to make Germany a leading location for artificial intelligence, the German government’s National AI-Strategy has launched funding programs, initiatives and cooperations to use AI to improve and facilitate not only advanced patient care but also everyday life and work.

About the author
Elif Karakurt
medical content creator
Elif is a medical student and works for Cytolytics in the branches of content creation and marketing alongside her studies. She is the head of the Cytolytics blog and could already gather experience in writing medical articles for various magazines. Her interests are recent health issues and news about medicine, health technologies, and digital health.
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