Digitization in healthcare: the beginning of a profound change

How digitization is changing the healthcare industry

Digital media use has become indispensable. Almost every household in Germany has at least one smartphone. To do this, an increasing number of people are using the Internet to make purchases, stream films or research information. Social networks and messenger programs enable connections from one end of the world to the other in a matter of seconds. The healthcare sector is also affected by this rapid development, even if the changes are proceeding more slowly. Prof. Dr. Jan Ehlers from the University of Witten / Herdecke reports on how digitalization is changing the healthcare industry.

According to Ehlers, the mills in the health sector are grinding more slowly than in other areas due to high quality requirements and regulations, but the beginning of a profound change can still be felt. The increasing use of modern technology and IT systems opens up new opportunities in the organization of hospitals and the administration and documentation of patient data. In addition, according to the expert, the diagnostic options are increasing. The new technical possibilities also offer more alternatives to invasive surgical interventions and digitization also allows a virtual doctor's visit via video conference, which is already practiced in some countries, says Ehlers.

The role of information technology in everyday medical practice

Ehlers assigns information technology a crucial role in everyday medical life in the future, taking neuronal interfaces as an example. These so-called brain-computer interfaces enable nerve cells in the brain to be coupled to a computing unit or a computer. With the help of these interfaces, one can operate computer programs or control prostheses and only through normal brain activity. Since these new methods require a high degree of technical understanding, the requirements for doctors of the future will also change. According to Ehlers, future doctors are expected to understand the functionality and structure of such technologies.

The technical possibilities of medical technology are just beginning

"The performance of modern IT technology is growing exponentially, countless studies show that medicine is only at the beginning of its technical possibilities," explains Philip Boehme, in a press release from the University of Witten / Herdecke. There he leads a course on the digital transformation of healthcare. According to Boehme, high-tech care is only as good as the doctor who does it. Therefore, doctors using such technology should have more than a basic understanding of it.

The rethinking starts at the university

"Medical studies at many universities have not yet adapted to the new developments," warns Ehlers, Vice President of the University of Witten / Herdecke. Modern doctors would also urgently need the competence to critically question new methods in order to be able to assess the advantages and risks. This would require a rethink at universities, which must prepare students for the changing world of work.

Digitization in your studies

The University of Witten / Herdecke wants to set a good example with the course “Digital Medicine - how data will change the way we treat”. According to Ehlers, the course is designed to be multi-professional and is open to students from all courses. The aim is to sensitize the students to the topic and to promote the reflective, interdisciplinary use of digital media. (vb)

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