Health

German hospitals receive digital health boost


From this month, public hospitals in Germany can apply for government funding for projects to boost digital health, cybersecurity, and IT infrastructure.

Under the Hospital Future Act (KHZG), which came into force in September 2020, public hospitals will receive a share of €4.3 billion for digital health innovation.

The German federal government (Bundestag) will make €3 billion available to the KHZF through the liquidity reserve of the health fund with an additional €1.3 billion to be provided through co-funding by the federal states and hospital operators themselves. At least 15% of the funding requested must be used to improve IT security.

Hospitals can submit their projected measures to the authorities in their members state before the end of September this year. Funding will be decided subject to regional investment priorities. Compliance with data protection regulation is also a criterion for eligibility. 

The Ministry of Health is due to publish a standardised evaluation model next month, which will measure the effectiveness of funded measures on hospitals’ digital maturity. 

Penalties can be imposed on hospitals which fail to introduce digital services eligible for funding by 2025.  

WHY IT MATTERS

Despite being one of Europe’s largest healthcare markets, Germany has lagged behind in digital maturity. The KHZG aims to address this stagnation by improving patient care in hospitals, modernising IT structure, improving cybersecurity measures and ensuring funding for those that wish to digitalise their processes and medical services. 

Funding can cover projects such as patient portals, electronic documentation of care and treatment services, digital medication management, IT security measures and cross-sectoral telemedical network structures. It can also be used to introduce or improve telemedicine, robotics, and high-tech medicine.

THE LARGER CONTEXT 

The KHZG follows the Digital Care Act (DVG), which was introduced by health minister Jens Spahn in 2019, to provide electronic health records (EHRs) for Germany’s 73 million publicly insured citizens and enable reimbursement of digital health apps. It also aims to phase out the use of paper by promoting e-prescriptions and incentivising doctors for the use of electronic medical letters rather than faxes.  

From this month, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has made the standardised medical terminology, SNOMED CT available to all users in the country. This allows medical terms to be clearly mapped internationally in various computer systems, creating the prerequisites for the electronic exchange of health data, an important building block for the federal government’s digitisation plans.

ON THE RECORD

Rainer Herzog, European market strategist for the health IT firm, SilverBuck, said in a blog post: “This is probably the biggest digital health investment opportunity in Europe.”

He added: “After years of sluggishness, the ‘legislative double-action’ almost feels like an awakening of Europe’s largest healthcare market.”


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