July 2020 – Three questions for Thomas Miller, health expert and Executive Director of Research at Hamburg Commercial Bank
Mr. Miller, as a member of the jury, what are your takeaways from the UKSH Healthcare Hackathon?
Thomas Miller:Extremely positive things. The competition entries were of a very high standard, and what is almost even more important, they had very concrete connections to current challenges facing hospitals.
The topic of digitization in the healthcare sector is nothing new in this country. What is really different in 2020?
Thomas Miller:The simple answer is coronavirus. You’re right: the need for accelerated digitalization in the healthcare sector has been discussed in Germany for a long time, far too long and too hesitantly. The coronavirus has now revolutionized the debate practically overnight, and the topic is rapidly gaining momentum. Just think of the new possibilities of telemedicine: unthinkable a short time ago, and now widely used. A historic window of opportunity is currently opening up especially for hospitals that want and need to modernize. In the German government’s current economic stimulus package, three billion euros are being spent as subsidies through the “program to future-proof hospitals”. This is earmarked for upgrading digital infrastructure in hospitals and for telemedicine, high-tech medicine and robotics.
What do you see as the main focus of digitalization in the healthcare sector?
Thomas Miller:I see great opportunities in five fields in particular. First, the digitization and improved exchange of data in hospitals or between doctors and patients. Secondly, with the help of artificial intelligence, for example, decisions about treatment or medical procedures can be made more intelligently and in a more personalized way. That means, much more individualized forms of therapy instead of one kind of treatment for all. Thirdly, I see great potential in the improvement and automation of processes. Fourthly, we are only at the beginning in terms of patient monitoring and telemedicine; there is still a lot to do and a lot to gain. And fifthly, increased digitalization creates more opportunities to help patients help themselves.