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German Hospitals on their Way to the Future

Christian Reinhold

German-Hospitals-on-their-Way-to-the-FutureImagine walking into a hospital of the futureIn this hospital patient data, clinical records, and medical advice are automatically gathered, edited, and made accessible to authorized healthcare professionals. Based on clinical information, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) assists medical employees in their daily work. Digital technologies diagnose lung diseases in minutes instead of hours, develop individualized treatment plans for every patient, undertake monitoring duties, and many other tasks.     Certified and approved technologies directly support medical professionals, as they free up time and provide additional resources that can be used for personal patient care. In this futuristic hospital, patient wellbeing is elevated to a new level. It is a place where smart technologies are combined with the professional expertise of its human employees to facilitate the best possible treatment for its patients.  

The (German) Hospital Dilemma

 Nowadays, German hospitals face a tremendous amount of pressure. As we know from our exchange with numerous hospital professionals, two challenges trap hospitals in a dilemma that can only be resolved in connection with one another. On one hand, they are confronted with increasing demands due to an ageing population suffering from chronic diseases that become more and more complex. On the other hand, shortages in healthcare professionals and continuous cuts in hospital funding limit hospitals’ capacities to meet these demands. The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated this situation.     To solve this dilemma, hospitals need smart solutions that free up time and resources, support their employees, cut expenses, and ensure that patient care remains at the highest level. By entering the world of digital transformation, hospitals can achieve all these goals simultaneously. Digital transformation goes far beyond digitization of patient records or digitalization of medication and therapeutics. It is the foundation for the hospital of the future 

Full Speed Ahead to the Future

Digital transformation has the potential to initiate sustainable change that will benefit hospitals, clinicians, and patients. Yet, to facilitate digital transformation millions and millions of puzzle parts need to be organized, come together, and fit one another. These puzzle parts have a name: Data    Hospitals require large amounts of data not only for their daily business – treating patients, managing staff schedules, and medical resources – but also to embark on the journey of digital transformation. Whether it is clinical, patient, or empirical data, a lot of this information is already collected and processed. Yet, this still happens manually or via outdated systems. Meanwhile, the amount of data grows exponentially making it harder and harder to be managed.     When cooperating with hospitals, we experienced that most hospitals are not yet sufficiently equipped to record and administer data efficiently, let alone release its full potential. Much of the existing data is often held in data silos and requires manual entries and updates, which are prone to erroneous or double data insertion that can produce severe consequences for IT security. Examples like the cyberattack on a hospital in Düsseldorf that shut down its IT systems and led to the death of a patient demonstrate how serious such negligence can be.     As long as data management relies on old, often analog systems or lacks structural, smart solutions, healthcare professionals remain unable to extract the full value of precious information. This information could help them diagnose diseases faster, develop individualized treatment plans or support decision-making processes in emergency situations    By employing a data fabric, hospitals can unlock data silos, facilitate data interoperability, and protect sensitive patient information. With the right partner, hospitals can start to explore the world of digital transformation and unleash the potential of modern healthcare today. Let NetApp be your ally when exploring what technology can do for you and how digital transformation can assist healthcare professionals in their daily work and elevate patients’ care and wellbeing to an even higher level. Welcome to the future!  

The KHZG – A Financing Framework for Hospitals of the Future

As of now, for many hospitals it has been very challenging to create data fabrics and thus engage in digital transformation. The dilemma they are facing has hindered healthcare professionals to fully immerse in digital transformation and launch the hospital of the futureWe have discussed about this within a virtual briefing that you can see here.   Finally, the German government recognized the peculiar dilemma hospitals are facing and decided to act: In September 2020, the Krankenhauszukunftsgesetz (KHZG) (closest translation: future hospital bill) entered into force. Aiming to foster digital transformation of hospitals, it provides 4.3 billion euros.   The KHZG provides funding opportunities for multiple projects to enhance digital transformation of hospitals, including cloud computing systems and measures to strengthen IT security. Yet, the funding does not come without conditions: Hospitals need to spend at least 15% of the received funding on information security and projects must fulfil standards of interoperability. Figure 1 displays projects that are eligible for funding.

KHCG projects with funding opportunities Source: Federal Ministry of Health (2020) (own representation).[/caption] As with any multilevel government project that involves state and federal authorities, the application and funding processes of the KHZG are complicated. Hospitals must convince several institutions that they (i) need new digital solutions (ii) can implement these solutions successfully until 2024 and (iii) use them in their daily routines.  

Additionally, each state has adopted its own rules and deadlines concerning funding applications, funding eligibility and timing of funding. To this end, hospitals must navigate through a jungle of forms, guidelines, and evaluation processes to secure funding. Furthermore, timing is crucial. As the application process ends in December 2021, early applications are more likely to succeed. On top of that, hospitals face another, existential challenge: Sanctions for failing to achieve sufficient progress as regards to digital transformation of specific areas.     Considering the limited time and resources of healthcare professionals, hospitals need a strong partner who provides them with technical solutions that facilitate encompassing digital transformation. And helps them navigate the jungle of funding guidelines. NetApp is such a partner.  

With NetApp to the Future

NetApp’s is the world’s proven leader in modernizing and simplifying digital infrastructure. Our data fabric forms the building block of digital transformation. We are committed to prepare your hospital to get ready for the future. We spare no effort and help you to maneuver the complex requirements of the KHZG and idiosyncrasies of the federal patchwork. In this e-book written by Philippe Wackers and Sebastian Hierl you can read more.   Based on a 25-year track record of delivering the most flexible and secure storage systems, NetApp possesses extensive experience in navigating complex IT environments to deliver tailor-made solutions to the specific needs of users around the world. This also applies to the requirements of the KHZG: NetApp technologies come with multiple additional benefits that empower hospitals to realize the full potential of digital transformation.   By acting as a data architect, NetApp guides hospitals throughout their journey towards digital transformation to launch the hospital of the future today: A hospital in which patient care is elevated to the highest level and the wellbeing of healthcare professionals is ensured.     If your hospital is on the journey to digital transformation and you want a strong partner who helps you to secure and maximize funding and provide smart, integrated technological solutions – embark with NetApp on your way to the future 

This is the first of two blogs that explore the realm of digital transformation of German hospitals. In the next blog, we will have a closer look at projects eligible for funding via the KHZG and discuss how NetApp can accompany your hospital’s journey towards digital transformation. So that you can build the hospital of the future today – together with NetApp. If you want further information check out our e- book or reach out to us here.

Christian Reinhold

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