The future ofmedicine

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Would you have a microchip inserted into your brain if it could repair brain damage?

There are in fact researchers who are already working on this technology. In the future, they are hoping it will enable them to lessen the effects of brain diseases, visual disorders, paralysis, and depression.

Would you have a transplant using an artificial organ printed in a 3D printer?

Scientists worldwide are working on a number of research projects to reproduce human tissue, bones, skin or even entire organs in a kind of 3D printer.

Would you ask a hospital chat robot questions about your diagnosis rather than waiting for the doctors to visit you?

Initial applications of this kind already exist. Chat robots based on artificial intelligence could relieve the strain on doctors in the future by providing patients and their families with information.

Would you allow your surgeon located 1,000 km away and controlling the scalpel via the internet to operate on you?

The rollout of new 5G network technology means this scenario is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In fact, the first live operation via the internet was performed in 2019.

Would you allow a robot to operate on you?

Ultramodern robots are already assisting surgeons. Some experts believe that surgeons could become superfluous for certain operations in the future.

Would you have a microchip inserted into your brain if it could repair brain damage?

There are in fact researchers who are already working on this technology. In the future, they are hoping it will enable them to lessen the effects of brain diseases, visual disorders, paralysis, and depression.

Would you have a transplant using an artificial organ printed in a 3D printer?

Scientists worldwide are working on a number of research projects to reproduce human tissue, bones, skin or even entire organs in a kind of 3D printer.

Would you ask a hospital chat robot questions about your diagnosis rather than waiting for the doctors to visit you?

Initial applications of this kind already exist. Chat robots based on artificial intelligence could relieve the strain on doctors in the future by providing patients and their families with information.

Would you allow your surgeon located 1,000 km away and controlling the scalpel via the internet to operate on you?

The rollout of new 5G network technology means this scenario is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In fact, the first live operation via the internet was performed in 2019.

Would you allow a robot to operate on you?

Ultramodern robots are already assisting surgeons. Some experts believe that surgeons could become superfluous for certain operations in the future.

The opportunities …

Over the past 150 years, medical progress has brought us breakthroughs such as the invention of X-ray technology, the discovery of penicillin, and the first organ transplants. Many experts believe that far greater progress awaits in the years ahead.

1Medical research

High-performance computers can evaluate huge volumes of data in no time at all (this is called “big data”) and, by doing so, help speed up the development of new treat­ments or drugs. Thanks to big data, researchers in the USA have discovered that a drug used for patients with depression could also help treat a specific form of lung cancer for example.

2Preventing diseases

Imagine wearing a tiny device on your body that analyzes your genetic predisposition, your physical condition, and your behavior. It could raise the alarm before you suffer a heart attack or develop diabetes. Although no such device exists as yet, today’s smartwatches can already warn wearers if, for instance, they have an irregular heartbeat.

3Better health and well-being

If you live in the countryside or on an island, the family doctor is often some distance away. Telemedicine offers a solution in such cases. Cutting-edge blood pressure devices and pacemakers can automatically transmit data to the doctor, while video consultations help decide whether an actual visit is necessary.

4Accurate diagnoses

Artificial intelligence (AI) analyzes large quantities of data in fractions of seconds. For instance, AI could compare X-rays or CT scans in global databases and help achieve a reliable diagnosis far faster. According to initial studies, for example, AI can help doctors detect skin cancer using photos of suspicious changes to the skin.

5Improved therapies

Digitalization promises many new treatment options in the future. A few examples are robots that help with operations, tiny microrobots that move through our blood­stream recording values such as blood pressure, and the use of virtual reality to treat diseases such as dementia or Parkinson’s.

6More efficient workflows

State-of-the-art technology is already relieving the strain on staff at medical practices and hospitals. Digital treat­ment and patient data is available at the touch of a button, and medical devices can be equipped with tiny transmitters so that everyone always knows exactly where they are currently in use. All kinds of other possibilities are also conceivable in the future, such as robots reliably taking blood samples from patients.

7Better nursing care

In the case of nursing and geriatric care, too, robots con­trolled by AI could take over heavy physical work such as washing, turning, and lifting patients. This would give nursing staff more time to attend to individual patient needs. Rehabilitation robots that help stroke victims, for example, regain their mobility are another potential application.

8Risk and side effects

Does this technological progress therefore really promise mankind the chance of a longer, healthier life? Or should we be worried that the technology will be misused? Risks and side effects cannot be ruled out when it comes to the digital future of medicine.

… and the risks

Despite all of the advantages, we cannot lose sight of the risks associated with the digitalization of the healthcare sector.

1Farewell to privacy?

Health is a private matter. Our health data accompanies us throughout our lives and is not interchangeable. None of us would want it to influence employers’ staffing decisions or be used by insurance companies to calcu­late their premiums, so it must be clearly regulated who is allowed to access which data – and who isn’t. This is a task for companies and, above all, for legislators.

2Hacker attacks on our health?

Health data is valuable. Hackers can steal sensitive data and hold the victims to ransom. They can also put peo­ple’s lives at risk by paralyzing the infrastructure of hos­pi­tals or medical practices. When developing new health system technologies, it is therefore vital to include effec­tive IT security solutions in the planning from the outset.

3Is technology infallible?

To err is human, as the saying goes, which means artificial intelligence is not infallible either. Algorithms learn using the data provided and recognize patterns in this data. The quality of the algorithm’s results ultimately depends on how it is trained – by humans. The criteria based on which algorithms make decisions must therefore meet ethical and legal requirements.

4Do robots make you lonely?

No machine can replace human contact, and such contact is particularly important to people who are old or sick. Consequently, robots can complement doctors, nurses, and carers, but not replace them. Clear rules are required for their use to ensure technical progress does not exacerbate the problem of loneliness.

What next?

Scientists, doctors, politicians, IT experts, ethicists, and patient representatives must work together to ensure full use of all the opportunities digitalization offers and make progress while also minimizing the risks.

What next?

Scientists, doctors, politicians, IT experts, ethicists, and patient representatives must work together to ensure full use of all the opportunities digitalization offers and make progress while also minimizing the risks.

This entails a number of basic prerequisites

1Discussing ethical matters

How much digitalization do we want to allow in the health sector? How can we ensure the focus is always on human well-being? Questions of this kind need to be discussed in a wide social dialog and joint solutions found.

2Breaking down technical barriers

The prerequisites in this case are an extensive high-performance network infrastructure and cutting-edge technology in both health care institutions and private households.

3Ensuring security

Everyone has the right to protection of their personal data. This must be ensured – and not only with technological means. We need legal conditions that minimize the risk of data misuse without impeding progress.

4Building up expertise

Innovative technologies can only realize their full potential if all users handle them correctly. Medical staff in particular must be given comprehensive training on the use of new technologies.

We need to talk about exactly what digital responsibility can look like. No one individual can decree it – no one company, no one institution, no one government. We can only develop digital responsibility together. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges

Right in the living room

“Your vitals are fine. You don’t need to worry.” Karin Müller is relieved about the good news from her family doctor. She signs off and switches off the tablet PC. That’s because she’s sitting in her living room and has just had a video chat with her doctor.

The future is now

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly limited and even shut down public life across several months. In some areas, however, the virus made things move faster, and that includes the digi­ta­li­za­tion of the health care system. According to a study con­ducted in spring 2020 by the Health Innovation Hub of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health and the Public Health Foun­dation, 52.3 percent of doctors surveyed offered video consultations. This compares with a figure of just 1.8 percent in 2017. Psycho­therapists, physicians in private practice, and general practitioners are making particular use of such consultations.

SDG 3 – HEALTHSDG 3 – HEALTH

With our e-health solutions, we are helping to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 of the United Nations.

The digital way through the crisis
The digital way through the crisis

Digital solutions for the health system

From hospital management systems and telemedicine platforms to electronic health cards and the Corona-Warn-App for contact tracing, Deutsche Telekom offers a whole host of solutions for the health care system.

For the benefit of patients

Clever solutions are helpful in an emergency or even prevent diseases. Digital platforms also make work easier for doctors and care staff.

1Emergency call via your smartwatch

Fast help is important in the event of a fall or acute health problems. For these emergencies, we offer a spe­cial smartwatch with safety functions. Using an alarm button on your wrist, you can, e.g., call relatives or inform the profes­sional first aid workers from Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe (the German St. John’s Ambulance).

2Timely stroke diagnosis

Using Apoplex Medical Technologies’ stroke risk analysis (SRA), patients can be tested for unde­tected atrial fibrillation. By doing so, the risk of a stroke can be detected early on and reduced using therapeutic measures. SRA is run in the Deutsche Telekom Healthcare Cloud, thereby meeting European data protection regulations.

3Central access to COVID-19 study data

Doctors are researching the long-term effects of COVID-19. We make their work easier with our creation, TrialComplete. This data management system is used across Europe and allows researchers to centrally access medical study data. As a result, they can share information faster, access results more easily, and link individual studies to one another. TrialComplete saves the data in the Telekom Healthcare Cloud.

4Connected work in South African hospitals

The hospital information system from Telekom Health­care, iMedOne, forms the basis for connected work in hospitals. In South Africa, the international version of the system is already being used in four hospitals in the Western Cape region.

5Electronic health records in Africa

Together with IBM and Capsule Technologies, we developed the first mobile digital patient record for Africa. It not only contains important patient data, it can also automatically record data from medical equipment such as ventilators or dialysis machines.

Everything is connected …

Corona-Warn-App

All on one card …

Most of us already have one in our wallets: the electronic health card. It stores our insurance master data. Since 2019, emergency infor­mation and a medication plan have also been stored on this card. Electronic prescrip­tions and other health data are potential further inclusions for the future. Since 2019, Deutsche Telekom has been offering medical staff a starter package for outpatient and inpatient care. It enables them to connect to the nation­wide IT infra­structure for the health card. The complete package contains every­thing a practice or hospital needs for a secure connection to the infra­structure. In 2019, tele­medicine applications for after­care of stroke patients were also connected to the tele­matics infra­structure for the first time. All pro­ducts are subject to the rigorous review of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) or approval from gematik (Gesellschaft für Tele­matik­anwen­dungen der Gesund­heits­karte mbH), a company dealing with the app­li­cation of telematics in the public health system.

No chance of drugs interacting with one another

Anyone who has to regularly take different medicines will already know that doctors and pharmacists must always know exactly which medication is being taken in order to avoid dangerous interactions. Since July 2020, medical practices and pharmacies have been able to create and edit an electronic medication plan on the patient’s electronic health card for those who are on three or more different kinds of medication and give their permission for such a plan. The aim of the electronic medication plan is to provide more security. To exchange the digital data securely, the hospitals, practices, and pharmacies are connected to a central telematics infrastructure. Connectors coordinate and encrypt the communication and ensure a secure transmission of the sensitive patient information. “gematik”, a company controlled by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health, is responsible for establishing the new, digital structures in the healthcare sector. Deutsche Telekom’s iMedOne® hospital information system also includes a function for the electronic medication plan. gematik has assessed this function and confirmed that iMedOne® is one of the first hospital information systems in Germany that complies with the interface for the telematics infrastructure.

“Comprehensive digital access to patient information while complying with the strict health data protection regulations is the basic prerequisite for the digitalization of the healthcare system.” Dirk Hoffmann – product owner of the electronic medication plan at Deutsche Telekom

The all-important web

Digital ethics

Digital health programs at Deutsche Telekom

In 2020, we launched the MyHealth Journey health program for emotional and mental fortitude. It contains various offerings such as webinars, online meditations, podcasts, and lecture recordings on the issue of mindfulness.

The immune system for data

The immune system for data

If digitalization in the health care system is to be a success, it is vital for people to be confident about the protection and security of sensitive data. Data privacy and data security therefore have top priority in e-health applications. To ensure that medical practices, hospitals, and health insurance companies do not become targets of cybercrime, and just as with health protection, we focus on two aspects – prevention and control – by simulating cyberattacks, for instance. Our “good guys” employ the same hacking methods that professional attackers use. This allows us to identify and close security gaps. If an attack does still occur, however, our emergency team from the Incident Response Service is ready. It is on standby around the clock and, in an emergency, can immediately investigate and help anywhere in the world – by telephone, email or even on site. If necessary, we also secure digital evidence so that it can be used later on in court. You can find detailed information about data protection and data security here.

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