The corona crisis has pushed the digitization of the healthcare system in Germany – but many doctors, hospitals and other parties involved still find it difficult to say goodbye to faxes and paper. That is the central result of a Study by the consulting firm McKinsey, which was presented on Thursday in Berlin. According to the “eHealth Monitor 2021”, over 90 percent of the general practitioner care practices are now connected to the telematics infrastructure. The communication between hospitals and outpatient doctors is still 95 percent analogue on paper. And there are also gaps in knowledge among the insured when it comes to digitized medicine.
“Overall, the general conditions for eHealth in Germany have further improved,” said co-author Tobias Silberzahn, partner at McKinsey in Berlin. Seven laws that have been in motion since 2019 have contributed to this. “The foundation for eHealth in Germany has been laid with the introduction of the electronic patient file (ePA) and the e-prescription. Now the interior work must begin.”
Since January 1, 2021, all those with statutory health insurance can receive an electronic patient record (EPR) from their health insurance company. Medical findings and information from previous examinations and treatments are stored in the ePA across practice and hospital boundaries. This is intended to make information on prescribed medication, previous illnesses, blood counts and other examinations, as well as the history of previous treatments, more accessible.
McKinsey notes that there is a lack of information in the population about digital offers and their specific benefits. At the end of 2020, for example, around 40 percent of those insured would have never heard of the EPR. So far, the response to the digital offer has been correspondingly low: “Half a year after the introduction of the ePA in January, fewer than 240,000 insured persons downloaded the files from the 20 largest statutory health insurances – a proportion of only 0.4 percent of those insured.”
The study cites the boom in the use of telemedicine in the corona crisis as a positive example. Last year, the number of digital consultation hours in German medical practices increased by a factor of 900 to almost 2.7 million – from fewer than 3,000 digital doctor-patient discussions before Covid-19 in 2019. In addition, the number of downloads has increased of the top 40 health apps almost doubled to 2.4 million.
In the field of digital health applications (DiGA), Germany is a pioneer in an international comparison. The possibility that apps can be prescribed by doctors and reimbursed by the health insurers is exemplary, said McKinsey partner Laura Richter, co-author of the study. “Some countries are also looking to Germany and would like to take up this process for themselves, such as Belgium and France”. Overall, Germany has a lot of catching up to do with digitization. “But in some places we are really pioneers and role models.” (dpa / rs)