What is smart technology in healthcare

Digitization and Artificial Intelligence

Digitization will help to strengthen people's health, improve health care and take the pressure off healthcare professionals. These opportunities are still not being used enough in this country, but in the future Germany should become a pioneer in Europe when it comes to introducing digital innovations into the health system. The federal government is showing the way in a roadmap for digital health innovations.

This development must be designed carefully. Because health data is sensitive and particularly worth protecting. Data protection and data security are of paramount importance in medicine. This requires a broad discussion about digital health innovations: actors from research, healthcare and society must agree on ethical and legal standards. This open discourse must be accompanied scientifically.

Use data resources to improve care and research

Care data that is routinely generated in everyday clinical practice is a great treasure for health research: Linking data sets from research (e.g. biobanks, gene databases, data from studies) and patient care can reveal connections, e.g. between individual genes, lifestyles and diseases. This enables new patient-relevant knowledge to be gained.

The medical informatics initiative funded by the BMBF is at the heart of research on digitization in the health sector. In the next few years, the German university hospitals and their partners from science, business and healthcare are to network. Its aim is to lay the foundation for cross-location networking and further use of medical data in order to improve patient care.

The BMBF also supports the development of new methods with which researchers can gain new knowledge from complex data worlds. This includes the development of innovative computer-aided methods and bioinformatic analysis tools. Big data centers have been established in Berlin and Dresden for this purpose, which are complemented by the German Network for Bioinformatics (de.NBI).

Electronic health records

Electronic patient files are of immediate benefit to people in everyday care. When made usable for science, they can lead to a leap in quality in research and help to better understand the origins of diseases and to develop innovative prevention and treatment concepts.

The electronic patient record contains all medically relevant data of a person. The file links the information from general practitioner and specialist visits as well as hospital stays. Doctors can thus see the overall picture of a medical history at any point in the health system. In this way, you can not only make diagnoses more quickly and precisely, but also better avoid duplicate examinations and adverse drug reactions. Research-compatible patient files also enable clinical and biomedical research to gain new knowledge about diseases and successful treatment concepts from routinely recorded patient data.

The Federal Government will work together with science, business, society and all stakeholders in the health system to ensure that research-compatible, electronic patient files are available at all German university hospitals by 2025. The care-centered, cross-facility electronic patient files, for which the secure telematics infrastructure in the healthcare system is a necessary prerequisite, provide important support for this. The focus is on patient benefit and data protection and data security are guaranteed.

Artificial intelligence in medicine

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important driver of the digital revolution. Health research and health care are already important fields of application. AI is particularly well developed, for example, in the evaluation of medical images. Here the field of “Computational Photonics”, the combination of modern photonic processes with fast and intelligent data analysis, promises significant innovations for medicine. The possible uses of AI are diverse:

  • By analyzing several thousand medical histories, computer programs can learn, for example, to individually predict the course of illness and therapy. From genetic analyzes and image data, they can calculate the aggressiveness of a tumor and predict whether radiation or chemotherapy is more promising.
  • AI systems will also optimize processes in the operating room. Surgeons who perform sophisticated interventions under the microscope can use voice or gesture control to request information, which then appears in the ocular of the surgical microscope.
  • Intelligent assistance systems support people with limited mobility - for example after a stroke - with exercise therapy as needed, i.e. as little as possible, but as much as necessary ("Assist-as-needed"). To do this, the systems must be geared towards the individual skills and needs of people.

Such innovations also hold great potential for companies in the healthcare industry. The Federal Government will play a key role in shaping these developments through the “Artificial Intelligence” strategy, and will particularly focus on the transfer to health care and nursing.

The experimental methods in biomedical research have made enormous strides in recent years. At the same time, the amount of electronically available data in patient care and clinical research is growing rapidly. In order to be able to analyze and interpret all these highly heterogeneous data sets, intelligent algorithms and workflows are necessary. With the “Computational Life Sciences” funding initiative, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is promoting the development of innovative analysis tools for life science research. One of the focal points is the use of artificial intelligence methods in biomedicine.

Digitization in medical technology

The digitization of medical technology harbors many new opportunities and possibilities for diagnosis and therapy, the monitoring and aftercare of patients as well as the control of medical processes. Surgical instruments are becoming increasingly intelligent thanks to sensors and software, for example: scalpels recognize their position in the body and can warn the surgeon in good time before healthy tissue is at risk.

Telemedicine makes medical monitoring and treatment possible even when patients are not in the hospital or in the practice. In the medical technology specialist program, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has placed particular emphasis on digital medical technology solutions that improve health care: New digital medical procedures and services are to be established and optimized. These include digital therapies, digital therapy support systems and digitized supply chains.

The networking of the medium-sized medical technology industry with the information and communication technology industry is to be accelerated so that more innovative medical technology solutions for digital health care can arise.