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Accelerating innovation in healthcare through the patient's voice

Patients should play a central role when designing digitalised processes and services for healthcare, according to speakers at the Financial Times Digital Health Summit that took place in Berlin last month.

Under the motto ‘Enhancing the Impact of Innovation through Collaboration’, sessions focused on the issues of change management and improved cooperation in the healthcare sector.


The core issues analysed and discussed were how and where digital technologies, devices and applications, as well as the data generated from them, can have their greatest impact in healthcare systems, how their efficiency can be measured, and which forms of cooperation between patients, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, innovators and investors are necessary in order to implement integrated care for the benefit of patients in a sustainable manner.


German health minister Jens Spahn, who opened the FT Digital Health Summit with a keynote speech, emphasised that Germany is planning to become a leader in the digital health sector in the future, starting with the launch of the Health Innovation Hub for startups. 

Stephan Holzinger, CEO and chief financial officer at the Rhön-Klinikum, cautioned that although there was no shortage of ideas and products in the digital health sector, around 90% of all technological solutions were not yet geared to the needs of patients.

This has to change, and, with the growing transparency through digitalisation, a new, more democratic role model could also result for the physician, Holzinger said.

Martin Seychell, deputy director general for Health & Food Safety at the European Commission, also spoke of a cultural change that goes beyond the technological and organisational transformation of digital healthcare.

“Companies that want to position themselves in the EU market need to understand the core values of the European healthcare system,” he added.

This includes, above all, the special relationship between doctor and patient. The public sector should support private companies in bringing health prevention and digital skills to citizens, Seychell said.

Meanwhile, Ilona Kickbush, director of the Global Health Centre, argued that personalised prevention programmes could represent a better way to respond to patients’ needs and their circumstances in the future.

The opinion spectrum from England and Finland at the FT Digital Health Summit was similar, Thomas Harte, NHS surgeon and NHS England clinical entrepreneur, called for patients to be brought on board in order to actually benefit from the promises of digital health. The willingness to share data has to be matched, however, by a verifiable patient benefit.

Jaana Sinipuro, project manager at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, agreed with this statement and stressed that the silo approach of the past must be overcome by a new way of thinking that defines the value of data sharing.

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Anna Engberg is a Wiesbaden-based freelance journalist specialising in health and technology.

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