Open Telekom Cloud for Business Customers

On the pulse of time: Digitalization in the healthcare sector

by Redaktion
Tablet with stylised globe health symbols and stethoscope.
The public cloud forms the basis for a comprehensive digitalization of the healthcare sector

In this article you will read about,

  • why the German healthcare system should focus on digital innovations,
  • what opportunities and obstacles exist when it comes to the digitalization of the industry and the use of new technologies,
  • and why the Open Telekom Cloud is the right partner for German healthcare bodies.


Electronic patient files, e-prescriptions, a national health portal, and a personalized patient portal – Denmark is an e-health role model. According to the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Digital Health Index, the country ranks third behind Estonia and Canada. Among other things, this is because the Danes have a high level of trust in the state and their healthcare system and a positive attitude toward digital services. What's more, the Scandinavians adopted their first national e-health strategy back in 1999. The state-funded digital health agency MedCom, which operates between the state, regions, and municipalities, has even been in existence since 1994.

In Germany, on the other hand, the digitalization of the healthcare system is progressing more slowly. According to the index, Germany ranks 16th in the comparison of countries. One of the reasons: There is a lack of an overall national strategy. German hospital law, for example, is a matter for the individual federal states, and the approach to and progress in digitizing facilities are correspondingly heterogeneous. In early summer, Bavaria laid an important foundation for the use of digital health services by amending its hospital law. The state has liberalized IT outsourcing for its hospitals and paved the way for facilities to move into the public cloud. This offers numerous new opportunities for hospitals and their operators. That is because, in the future, they will also be allowed to have patient data that is not solely used for administrative purposes stored and processed by external service providers. In the past, this was only permitted in the hospital's own data center or at other hospitals. Accordingly, the facilities had to operate an internal IT infrastructure – something that entails high costs and personnel expenditure.

Another difficulty for the hospitals is the fact that more and more providers are now making modern applications or software updates for existing solutions available exclusively as public cloud offerings. Hospitals often could not use these at all or could only use outdated versions. "This is fatal for the healthcare system. Many solutions in hospital operations or in facilities for outpatient care are now out of date. The industry is in urgent need of digital innovations and has to update the entire basis with a modern, efficient infrastructure," says Arndt Bleckmann, Customer Success Manager for the healthcare industry at Open Telekom Cloud. For example, in order to be able to relieve doctors and nursing staff and deploy them more efficiently, reduce costs, simplify processes, and reduce the bureaucratic burden on employees. "Cloud services provide a secure, future-proof basis for modern e-health solutions that do all this."

Complex legal situation

To ensure that the German healthcare system increasingly benefits from such services in the future, the German government intends to use the hospital future fund and a funding volume of up to 4.3 billion euros to drive forward the comprehensive digitalization and networking of the German healthcare sector. One key prerequisite for a digitalization project to be eligible for funding is that it must comply with data protection regulations.

In Bavaria, adapted statutory provisions will in future govern what data protection must look like for cloud projects. They must comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, and healthcare institutions must draw up an order processing agreement and a joint security concept with the cloud provider. In other German states, however, hospital operators must comply with both federal and state laws, as well as professional regulations for medical staff, provisions of the criminal code and the social security code or the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) specifications for critical infrastructures.

Relief through digital discharge management

"However, high requirements for data protection, security, and compliance need not deter German hospitals and practices from their digitalization projects," says Arndt Bleckmann. "There are solutions that meet the desired standards." For example, platforms for digital discharge management.

These connect inpatient care facilities with healthcare and other relevant services while ensuring smooth, efficient processes – from the transfer to a suitable care facility to the application for follow-up treatment. In this way, the solutions improve processes as well as patient care. At the same time, they meet the requirements of the Hospital Future Act. On the one hand, this provides subsidies for healthcare facilities, but on the other hand it also obliges them to provide digital services.

Core market Germany: The Open Telekom Cloud as the optimal basis for the healthcare system

"If providers of such solutions rely on our GDPR-compliant infrastructure from the Open Telekom Cloud, they and their users are on the safe side," says Arndt Bleckmann. "Our data centers in Germany and the Netherlands meet the highest security standards." Another advantage: "Germany is our core market. We are certified by German authorities and institutes in many cases. This means we already meet a large part of the requirements and can respond promptly to changing legal situations in the healthcare system."

Among them are the BSI requirements for operators of critical infrastructures, which are relevant for many clinics. "In addition, we are bound to professional secrecy as well as social data secrecy in accordance with Section 35 of the German Social Security Code (SGB I). This is important for the industry, as health data is part of social data." It is not only institutions planning to move to the cloud in the future that should take all this into account. "Even those who have been storing and processing non-personal data in third countries will generally have to rethink their cloud strategy if they want to expand the scope of functions."

Because if any processing of personal data is involved, then providers from third countries are ruled out. Customers need GDPR-compliant European alternatives. "Then digitalization opens up enormous potential for healthcare; big data analytics and medical diagnostics using artificial intelligence alone can transform research and medical care worldwide," says Bleckmann. Thanks to their flexibility and scalability, public cloud resources can meet the growing demand for IT capacity for such procedures at any time – with costs always adjusting to actual consumption thanks to the pay-as-you-go model.


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