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Toward a Better System
In its comprehensive study, Connected Health: The Drive to Integrated Healthcare Delivery, Accenture looked at how very different health systems across eight countries are progressing on the journey to better healthcare. Connected Health is an approach to healthcare that uses the systematic application of healthcare information technology. Despite ambitious goals and significant investments, progress toward Connected Health in Germany has been patchy, particularly when it comes to health information exchange (HIE).
The study revealed that while the slow pace of change disillusions many experts in Germany, they are also convinced that the overall goal and funding models need to become clearer before the country can make any further developments toward Connected Health. Some believe that the benefits of e-health remain unproven, making it difficult to justify major investment and sweeping changes to the entire healthcare system.
There are three distinct stages in the journey toward Connected Health: Healthcare IT adoption, HIE and insight driven healthcare. Germany is showing a promising, but mixed, record in making progress in all three of these areas:
Healthcare IT adoption. Most general practitioners in primary care use basic computing systems, but these systems are often outdated and used for practice administration, not patient or clinical management.
HIE. Experts are optimistic that Germany’s advanced smartcard system will eventually lay the foundation for the more widespread adoption of healthcare IT, especially if patients buy into the scheme and choose the voluntary components. These elements offer greater potential to foster better health information exchange despite significant technological, cultural and structural barriers.
Insight-driven healthcare. Using health information to improve the quality and cost of care is rather limited in Germany, but experts predict a new wave of innovation in healthcare, with an ambitious goal to have broadband access in 75 percent of homes and businesses by 2015.
Germany faces a number of challenges over the coming years as it continues its journey toward Connected Health, but many observers remain optimistic that the country has already built momentum. Challenges include:
While experts disagree on what progress Germans can realistically expect over the next five years, most concur that healthcare IT adoption levels among physicians—particularly in telemedicine—will increase significantly in Germany. This will set the wheels in motion to improve the quality of care and help to manage budget pressures.
As Germany navigates its way along the complex road to Connected Health, policymakers, healthcare experts and other stakeholders must hold open and frank discussions about the right strategy for the country. Most importantly, experts agree that the development of Connected Health has to include envisioning a win-win situation for all stakeholders to assure greater commitment and investment.
January 27, 2012
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