Professor Karl Lauterbach at VISUS

Symposium organised by the German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Bochum, 9 August 2017: Will digitalisation be able to fulfil its promises and ensure the same high quality of care given record spend in the healthcare system? This was one of the many burning issues addressed at a symposium organised by the German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (Bundesverband mittelständische Wirtschaft – BVMW) held at the VISUS corporate headquarter on 1 August 2017. Featured guest in this question and answer event was Professor Karl Lauterbach, public health expert and deputy chairman of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

With less than eight weeks before general elections in Germany, the 50 invited high-profile entrepreneurs and healthcare economy stakeholders were eager to address non-healthcare issues. Thus Uwe Knüpfer, former editor-in-chief of the leading regional daily paper WAZ, and facilitator of the discussion, found himself in the middle of an election campaign. What is the status of the SPD‘s election campaign? Where are the policy differences between SPD and the rival Christian Democrats? What exactly do SPD politicians mean when they talk about "more social justice"? Eager to oblige and highly knowledgeable, Karl Lauterbach answered all questions.

There is no way around digitalisation

During the discussion a gaping hole in German politics became apparent: It seems that all parties across the political spectrum are wary of the free market and competition. While this apprehension might be justified to a certain extent, tight regulation tends to constrain innovation. This is particularly obvious with regard to digitalisation, a field where Germany in general and the healthcare sector in particular are lagging behind. Companies, such as the event‘s host VISUS, itself a member of the German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses, are going full throttle to develop state-of-the-art IT solutions that reduce costs and admin time while enhancing patient care by consolidating data. The legislator, however, frequently undermines these efforts with laws and regulations that prevent the technical potential from being fully exploited. For much too long the issues digitalisation and data management were neglected – with the result that today clear guidelines and rules are lacking. These failings are becoming ever more obvious as modern IT has moved far beyond administration to actively engage in clinical processes, for example with algorithms that support clinical decision-making processes. What is lacking now is a coherent policy which provides a framework so IT innovations and digitalisation can lead to more efficiency in the healthcare system. This is the only way forward to ensure high quality healthcare in the future.

"As an active player in the highly regulated healthcare market we absolutely need discussions like those at the BVMW symposium. We are very proud to have hosted this event which provided an opportunity to direct the attention towards healthcare IT in Germany," said Jörg Holstein, Managing Director at VISUS.

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Professor Karl Lauterbach at VISUS