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Digital Public Health: We need to use the wealth of data available to finally focus on prevention and health promotion. Data4Life & the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) are jointly driving the digitalization of public health.

High-calibre panel calls for better use of existing data as a basis for meaningful digitalization in the healthcare sector. Germany spends over 12.9% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, making it the EU leader in this area. This is not currently reflected in life expectancy, where we are in 22nd place (Federal Statistical Office, 2024). Although millions of patient data are generated every day, they often come to nothing - unused by research. "Why do we pay for illnesses?" asks Prof. Dr. Dr. Lothar Wieler, Head of Digital Global Public Health at the Hasso Plattner Institute. "To change the healthcare system, you need data that decision-makers can't ignore." At DMEA - Connecting Digital Health, the non-profit HealthTech organization Data4Life from Potsdam and HPI are therefore calling for

  • Digitize data collection. Data from sensors, wearables and questionnaires can thus be systematically taken into account and integrated into studies.

  • Expand interoperability. Medical data from research institutes and research clinics can be brought together from silos through platform solutions and used to gain knowledge.

  • Use digitalization. Digital health enables personalized and more economical medicine

Potsdam, April 12, 2024. Germany should become a pioneer in digital medicine, according to Health Minister Prof. Karl Lauterbach in his keynote speech at DMEA - Connecting Digital Health, which took place in Berlin from April 9-11. To discuss the reality and work out the next steps, the non-profit organization Data4Life put together an expert exchange in a top-class panel. Alongside Prof. Dr. Dr. Lothar Wieler, Head of Digital Global Public Health at the Hasso Plattner Institute, Dr. Thomas Götz, State Secretary at the Brandenburg Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Integration and Consumer Protection, Dr. Alina Brandes, a consultant at the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the doctor and entrepreneur Dr. Valerie Kirchberger, and PD Dr. Cornelius Remschmidt, Chief Medical Officer at Data4Life, discussed how prevention can be achieved as the key to a healthy society through the expansion and use of digital technologies. "We know that technical tools and recommendations from doctors lead to better adherence," says Dr. Cornelius Remschmidt, "We must also use these aspects in prevention and empower citizens to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Supported by the healthcare system".The trade fair is regarded throughout Europe as the industry's pacemaker and ended yesterday with a brilliant result: over 800 exhibitors, including more than 170 from the global healthcare industry from 30 different nations.The fact that digitalization is booming in the healthcare sector is evident in the community, but it is also clear in almost every conversation where things are still stuck:

Data is collected in silos and used inadequately - or not at all

With the increase in health apps, fitness trackers and wearables, almost everyone generates individual health data on their smartphone every day. In addition, millions of patient data are generated in clinics and practices every day. This data is worth its weight in gold. It could create evidence, i.e. provide proof of the benefits of treatments, harm or interactions of medications and therapies, and thus contribute directly to research into diseases in order to better understand and better coordinate therapy elements - ideally individually for each patient.

Real-world data collected outside of clinical studies in the everyday lives of citizens can help us prevent diseases. After all, many chronic diseases can be prevented if signs of illness are recognized early on.

Digitalized medicine can save lives and is economical

Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and its accompanying illnesses will be by far the most common causes of death in the future.Here too, early examinations and digitalization can usher in a new era:Blood tests can already be used to determine the risk of Alzheimer's dementia, and DNA analyses could also be used to calculate the probability of cancer. Federal Health Minister Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach also put it this way in his opening keynote. The prediction of certain diseases will become more precise, personalized medicine will become possible, and this will not only increase patients' chances of survival, but will also be cost-saving for the healthcare system.However, this (data) treasure trove is only valuable if it is collected and used, as the basis for every insight in medicine is a sound database.Collected in clinical studies, securely stored and managed anonymously.

Everyday research lies between paper questionnaires and landline telephones

The reality often looks like this: Institutes recruit study participants through cold calling by landline telephone, expense allowances (banknotes) are sent by post in envelopes, handwritten questionnaires have to be deciphered - and often become unusable due to illegibility. "In Germany, we operate in a rigid healthcare system that has grown over decades and can only be changed by radical change," says Prof. Dr. Dr. Lothar Wieler."It can be objectified on the basis of data, but the incentives are missing.90% of type 2 diabetes would be preventable through lifestyle changes, but the treatment of diabetes is still better incentivized financially than prevention.We therefore need to change the system so that the result - healthier people - becomes attractive.Disease reduction and treatment quality must be at the center of incentivization"

Ready for research

The technology is available and the population's willingness to donate data has increased significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The legal framework for innovation can be found in the Digital Act and the Health Data Utilization Act.Without implementation by the major software providers, the data treasure trove cannot be used.However, the whole thing will only work if, in addition to the major players in the industry, innovation-driving start-ups and politicians work together towards a common goal.The more high-quality and representative data is evaluated, the greater the chances of innovation and market success for ideas.Data4Life can already provide part of the solution today:In order to make patient care fit for the future, the non-profit organization has four ready-for-research solutions that have already been used in various research projects.

About Data4Life

D4L data4life gGmbH is a non-profit HealthTech organization funded by the Hasso Plattner Foundation.

The international team is working on the vision of making health data researchable in the fields of public health and personalized medicine in order to significantly improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.Since its foundation in 2017, Data4Life has worked with experts from renowned research institutions worldwide, including various German university hospitals, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, to make this a reality.The company is based in Potsdam with offices in Berlin and Singapore.

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