Smart Health: Expanding Medical Horizons

Last month, the German Medical Association relaxed the ban on long-distance treatment of patients, clearing the way for telemedicine across Germany. It is the first step toward digital expansion in health care services. What does the future have in store, and how will each one of us benefit? Sixty experts recently got together at the N3XTCODER event, hosted by SAP at the SAP Data Space, to find out more.

“Who thinks life expectancy will hit 180 years by the end of the next century?” moderator Leonhard Nima, from N3XTCODER, asked.

Holding their red (no) and green (yes) voting cards, the audience is doubtful. One participant counters with a question of her own: Do we even want that? Ethical questions like these were exactly what the various panelists had come to discuss on this warm May evening.

Digital Innovations for Smart Health

Frederike Wanstrath, for example, gave an account of her day-to-day activities as user experience design specialist at SAP. She is part of a global team of 200 employees committed to innovation in the healthcare sector. Working from the SAP Innovation Center Potsdam, Frederike develops healthcare software in close collaboration with doctors and hospitals such as the Charité Berlin.

This involves analyzing patient data and mapping it in visual format. “Deciding which data the doctors are shown could mean the difference between life and death for a patient,” she pointed out. “So we take our task very seriously, and are fully aware of the responsibility this entails.”

Bart de Witte, director of Digital Health for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland at IBM, and head of the institute, went a step further: “Studies have already shown that algorithms return much more accurate diagnoses than specialists, so it would be quite irresponsible of us to ignore them, wouldn’t it?”

From that perspective, soliciting the help of “Dr. Algorithm” appears to be an ethical no-brainer.

Germany Weighs the Opportunities and Risks

The N3XTCODER event ended the evening on a political note. Christian Kulick, member of the management team at Bitkom, the German Association for IT, Telecommunications, and New Media, proposed that model regions for digital health infrastructures be set up. Local doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and tech companies, with government support, can co-create agile e-health solutions together. The resulting business models could then be introduced to other regions in Germany, he explained.

Until then, Christian warned, we need to keep society up to speed on the opportunities offered by digitalization and help Germany bridge the digital divide.

That is exactly what SAP is aiming to accomplish in Germany’s capital region, by focusing on strong exchange among communities. The N3XTCODER event is  one of many programs supported by SAP in Berlin. Upcoming events include: SAP D-CLICK #2, Smart Health, on June 7; Tech Open Air, June 19-22; IoT Brunch, on July 6; and me, on July 12.

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