German hospitals to get €3 billion funding boost for digitalisation

German health minister Jens Spahn has announced €3 billion for hospitals to invest in modern emergency capacities, digitisation and IT security.

The funding for projects to modernise the hospital system will be provided under the hospital future fund (KHZF), from the health fund’s liquidity reserve. This will cover 70% of projects and 30% will be funded by the federal states/ hospital operators, which will raise a further €1.3 billion.

Projects eligible for funding are set out in the draft Hospital Future Act (KHZG), which was passed by the Bundestag on September 18 and is expected to come into force next month. They include patient portals, electronic documentation of care and treatment services, digital medication management, IT security measures and cross-sector telemedical network structures. The funding can also be used to introduce or improve telemedicine, robotics and high-tech medicine.

Hospital operators have been able to start implementing projects from the start of this month and can submit funding applications until 31st December 2021. The digitalisation status of hospitals will be evaluated in June 2021 and 2023.

WHY IT MATTERS

Despite having the world’s second largest healthcare market after the US, Germany has lagged behind when it comes to digitisation. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digital health and the need to modernise the country’s hospital system.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Spahn has been an outspoken supporter of transforming healthcare through digital technology, since coming into office in March 2018.

Last year he introduced the Digital Supply Act which allowed to be reimbursed doctors for prescribing digital health apps and providing online consultations to patients. It also aims to phase out the use of paper by promoting e-prescriptions and incentivising doctors for sending electronic medical letters rather than faxes.

Earlier this year, the draft Patient Data Protection Act was raised, which is intended to regulate access rights to patient data in the EHR and digital health apps.

Germany aims to bring in electronic health records (EHRs) for its 73 million patients with statutory insurance by 2021.

ON THE RECORD

Spahn, said: “We are sending the clear signal: Germany’s hospitals should remain strong. We are investing in their digital future – because we have just learned during the pandemic how important well-equipped and functioning hospitals are.

“We are also extending our protective shield for the clinics, because we know that some hospitals are still suffering from the financial consequences of the pandemic. This is how we will improve patient care and ensure greater safety.”

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