Digital Health Industry

Stethoscope and tablet ; Source: istock.com/alexey_boldin + PeopleImages
© istock.com/alexey_boldin + PeopleImages

Digitization is revolutionizing industries around the globe, and healthcare is no exception. Many innovations have significant potential to improve the quality of healthcare and the safety of diagnostics and therapies. Modern information and communication technologies (ICT) simplify diagnostic and treatment procedures, increase the quality of medical care and improve the availability of all types of data and medical knowledge. As digitization progresses, more modern technologies will make data and communications services even more efficient and effective.

The digital healthcare sector includes all the application possibilities for ICT in healthcare. A very broad range of diverse and complex solutions has generally led to these being classified in four, overlapping fields. They are:

  • E-Health includes all types of modern ICT technology and applications used to improve the provision of healthcare in a public health setting. The term encompasses all the other digital health solutions (e.g. healthcare portals, healthcare apps).
  • Health telematics establish the basic technological and platform requirements that must be met in order to allow the exchange of information in healthcare in accordance with the law and general data security standards (e.g. electronic physicians' letters, electronic patient files).
  • Telemedicine includes all ICT and infrastructure for providing basic medical services and diagnostics that involve the transmission of data and from patients in a remote location to a physician located elsewhere (e.g. teleconsultation, telediagnostics, telemonitoring).
  • mHealth or "mobile health" incorporates mobile medical and health-related applications. It also includes applications that go beyond basic medical services, and extends to individual health and fitness apps as well. (e.g. lifestyle and health apps, personal information systems).

A hot topic that is linked to all of these categories is big data, the uses of which are rapidly gaining significance in all aspects of healthcare. Big data solutions combine and process largely unstructured data sets from different sources. One of the great potentials of big data is in the acquisition of new medical knowledge (e.g. prevalence studies, epidemiology, analyses of drug efficacy).

Market development

Demand for digital healthcare solutions worldwide is already enormous and still growing. The technologies have the potential to improve first and foremost patient management, efficiency in service provision, networking of patients and all providers, and personalization of health services. Germany's digital healthcare sector is already able to offer internationally competitive products and services in a number of fields of application.

Africa, for example, is a place where German digital health technology is already contributing to improvements in public health by promoting early diagnosis of diabetes. In South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, the pharmaceuticals company Merck is working with local pharmacies running a program known as DORA (Diabetes Online Risk Assessment), which allows people to use a smartphone to assess their risk of diabetes.

Digital health research and product development are also thriving in Germany. The start up environment is booming. Take Midge Medical, for example. The "midge" is a one-way blood-sampling tool that patients can use to take blood samples themselves. They do not even have to go to the doctor because the results can be transmitted using a smartphone app. And that is just the one small innovation of many more to come.

How HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY works

Among the tasks of the Export Initiative of the German Healthcare Industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, is to inform and guide foreign individuals and companies who are interested in doing business in and with German healthcare. The Initiative informs you about German industry, holds events in your country and is available to answer your questions. Other functions are to promote lasting foreign market access and international network development for German small and medium-sized industries (SMEs).

In order to ensure that it is meeting their needs, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY works in close cooperation with four working groups whose members are organizations representing specific sectors within the German healthcare industry. They are also available to address any queries you might have.

The members of the Digital Health Working Group are:

German Association of Health IT Vendors (bvitg)

Germany's Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom)

German Hospital Federation  (DKG)

National Association for eHealth and Telemedicine (NEST)

German Association of Consulting Engineers (VBI)