In the case of processes that take place within healthcare facilities or between individual actors in the health care system, we are often still behind the times, for example using paper and fax instead of cloud and touch screen. We leave great potential untapped which could increase the efficiency of our healthcare system, even though per capita health expenditure will exceed the CHF 10’000 per year threshold for the first time in 2018. It is high time that we gave a boost to digitization in the healthcare sector as well. A recent study points to a paradox in digitization in the healthcare sector: Swiss doctors are generally in favour of this but are hardly taking advantage of the opportunities due to old structures and the existing tariffs – despite the great potential for savings.
In the healthcare sector, the digitization debate is gaining additional appeal with the introduction of the electronic patient file (EPD). According to the federal law passed in 2015 (EPDG), all inpatient service providers must meet the requirements for introducing the EPD by 2022.
How will the future Swiss healthcare system look regarding digitization? Approximately two thirds of Swiss physicians are in favour of digitization in medicine. But in everyday life they are skeptical about the competition from Dr. Google and Co. The data is too inaccurate. At the same time, studies by consulting firm KPMG (Clarity on Healthcare) show that consistent digitalization of patient paths – conservatively estimated – saves around CHF 300 million annually. Experts even estimate the savings potential to be in the billions.
Nevertheless, according to the study, doctors hardly make use of these offers and products. Only a third integrate such products occasionally or often into everyday life. Usually in administration or patient communication. In addition, only one third recommends that doctors use their patients’ apps to document their eating habits or to quit smoking. There are several reasons for this reluctance. One of them is pricing. Marc-André Giger, co-author of the study, explains: “Patients have informed themselves about their symptoms on the Internet and expect their family doctor to explain and classify this knowledge. Such conversations are gaining in importance,” . The problem, however, is that such conversations, like other new digital options, are not included in the current tariff system. In addition, digital applications lead to a higher administrative burden because “the same patient data has to be entered again and again”.
The age factor, which is important for digitization, is also reflected in the health sector. In the study, over half of physicians over 55 years of age showed a negative attitude, while 74 percent of those under 40 years of age showed a positive attitude. According to the study, doctors are also concerned about patient safety. They fear that patients might misinterpret the information or even feel incited to self-treatment that is harmful to their health. Data protection also raises concerns.
4,570 doctors took part in the survey, all members of FMH. A large proportion are from the field of general internal medicine and some work in psychiatry and pediatrics. About two thirds of these doctor’s work in the outpatient sector, the other third in the inpatient sector.
The flood of data in the health sector is being boosted not only by digitalization in the health sector, but also by health apps, which are now part of everyday life. 325,000 health apps were available in 2017, and 78,000 new applications from this area were offered in the Google and Apple app stores. In Switzerland, 44% of the population say they use apps for fitness and exercise. Digital health services such as Mobile Health provide communication, diagnostics and treatment between patients and physicians regardless of time or place. In addition to fitness and lifestyle applications, applications are being developed in a medical-professional environment to support changes in patient behavior during therapy and to improve therapy compliance.
A safer, independent and cost-saving solution to most of the above problems is healthbank. healthbank is the world’s only independent and cooperative health data transaction platform, enabling users to securely store and share health data with places such as hospitals, medical practices and research institutions, in a privacy-compliant manner. But also, all data from health apps can now be stored in one place and used in a meaningful way.
healthbank is convinced that this will create the basis for digitally transforming the healthcare system comprehensively and along the entire treatment pathway – instead of creating a patchwork of individual initiatives that do not allow for continuous processes. With this holistic approach, the cooperative from Baar has the greatest impact. If the family doctor, the surgeon in the hospital, the pharmacist or the physiotherapist share the information about my treatment transparently and efficiently with each other and via the healthbank platform, the potential of eHealth will be used to the full, saving billions in costs and many lives.
Author: Roger Huber