Deutsche Telekom healthcare MD issues e-Health rallying call

Deutsche Telekom's MD for healthcare solutions said Germany's health industry is not keeping pace with growing sales of fitness trackers or the expanding capabilities of smartphones, and that hospitals must not be put off digitising services by a rash of recent cyber attacks.

Axel Wehmeier noted in a blog post that around a third of Germans now own a wearable fitness tracker and that people -- or patients -- are driving the digital health industry just as much as the telecoms and ICT industries.

However, Wehmeier also explained that the full capabilities of smartphones and wearable devices are still not being exploited by healthcare professionals in Germany.

"Wearables warn of heart attacks, mobile phone cameras recognise skin cancer, apps collect your vital signs and share them with doctors," he stated. Those capabilities are leading to frustration among consumers, many of whom "bring this data to doctors' appointments and don't understand why they cannot simply send it," Wehmeier explained.

"Man has walked on the moon and is planning expeditions to Mars. An x-ray being just a mouse click away, on the other hand, is something that we still cannot have," the executive added.

Wehmeier said part of the problem consumers are having is that Germany is still some way off from having a digital healthcare system. He noted that "barely a quarter" of some 1,600 acute hospitals have been classified under the EMRAM standard, which Wehmeier explained "identifies the digital maturity of clinics under eight levels" ranging from zero to seven.

"In Germany, one clinic has achieved the highest category," Wehmeier stated, noting that the country's average rating is 1.77 -- some "20 per cent under the European mean of 2.17."

The Deutsche Telekom executive urged Germany's health industry to press forward with digitisation, despite concerns being raised by a raft of ransomware attacks in February.

Doctors and IT departments unplugged digital systems as a precaution after their IT systems began slowing down, Infosecurity Magazine reported.

Wehmeier said the hospitals affected resorted to paper-based communications, but urged the healthcare industry not to view a return to paper as a long-term solution to security concerns.

"We must take care of the risks of [digitisation] and ensure the security of medical data. And at the same time, we cannot throw away the chances that we are being offered," he said.

For more:
- see Wehmeier's blog post
- view this Infosecurity Magazine article

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