The pressure to act is great, emphasized Thomas Korbun, the scientific director of the Institute for Ecological Economic Research. “Climate change is in full swing,” he said in his presentation at the Tagesspiegel specialist forum for healthcare on Wednesday. This has long had health consequences in Germany. For example, according to studies, 37 percent of all heat deaths can be attributed to man-made global warming.
However, the healthcare industry is not just a helper, but a polluter, because it is responsible for more than five percent of national greenhouse gas emissions, said Korbun. Therefore, both the healthcare industry and politics must address the issue of sustainability with the highest priority.
At the healthcare industry forum, experts from business and politics discussed the future viability of Berlin-Brandenburg as a healthcare location for the sixth time. The event, which was sponsored by the companies Pfizer Germany, Sanofi-Aventis Germany and Takeda Pharma Vertrieb, took place as a hybrid event. In addition to a hall audience, viewers also followed the live stream of the discussion, which was moderated by Tagesspiegel editor-in-chief Christian Tretbar.
Economics Senator Stephan Schwarz was connected via video. “In our time, no company can afford to ignore the issue of sustainability,” he said. Long-term risks would have to be priced in, including climate costs. That hasn’t always happened in the past. The consequences are borne by the general public, also in terms of health. “Sustainability must become a cornerstone of medical ethics,” demanded Schwarz.
Jörg Fahlbusch, member of the management of Takeda Germany, called on his industry to get out of its “comfort zone”. It is high time to try unconventional ideas and take risks. However, the companies also needed political support to prevent competitive disadvantages.
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Florian Schlehofer, health industry cluster manager at the Brandenburg Economic Development Agency, said: “It can’t be ‘keep it up’.” A turning point, as announced by the Federal Chancellor, must take place not only in security policy, but also in relation to health and climate.
Kai Uwe Bindseil from the business development agency “Berlin Partner” recalled the corona pandemic, which showed how important digitization is in the health sector. “Other countries are further along than Germany.” Legislation often unnecessarily restricts the options, for example in the area of data protection.
For example, it is nonsensical that Berlin’s hospital law stipulates that patient data may only be processed on servers on the premises of the respective clinic. This hinders the cooperation between clinics and research institutions. Today there are other and better ways to protect data, said Bindseil.
Vivantes boss Johannes Danckert agreed: The relevant passage of the law is no longer up-to-date in view of technical developments, he said. Therefore, in his view, this provision should simply be removed from the law. Despite the restrictions, Vivantes and the Charité have managed to create a common IT infrastructure for the exchange of treatment data, emphasized Dankert.
There is a lot of potential in the “harmonization of digital data exchange,” said Daniel Kalanovic, Medical Director at Pfizer Germany: “We have to think about data protection in such a way that it really helps the patient.”
Technological developments in the field of artificial intelligence should be used more because they make it easier for doctors to make decisions, he said. Bindseil pointed out that Berlin, with its high density of clinics, research institutions, established companies and innovative start-ups, has enormous development potential.
In a second panel, Kristina Böhm said that networking within the healthcare system had proven its worth during the corona pandemic. But this development should not come to a standstill now. Böhm is a member of the board of directors of the Association of Physicians in the Public Health Service of the states of Brandenburg and Berlin and head of the Potsdam Health Office.
Tobias Schulze, spokesman for health, science, research and digitization for the left-wing parliamentary group in the House of Representatives, said that the health authorities had been going through a “hit-jerk digitization” since 2020. Especially with the complex contact tracing, it has become clear to previously skeptical employees that a functioning digital system works more effectively than “Excel spreadsheets and filing cabinets”.
The protection of patients’ personal data must always be guaranteed, but an exchange of anonymized treatment data is important for the development of therapies and medication. Böhm emphasized that the health authorities had data that could be used in the future to prevent diseases: “We are on the patient from the cradle to the grave.”
Heidrun Irschik-Hadjieff from Sanofi Germany complained that the German healthcare system thinks too much in terms of data silos, including in other areas. The pandemic has shown that there is another way: “A digital vaccination card was created almost overnight. Why can’t you enter the other vaccinations there?”
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The participants in the discussion agreed on the essential points. Michael Zaske, head of the health department at the Brandenburg Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Integration and Consumer Protection, summed it up as follows: “We don’t have a knowledge deficit, but an implementation deficit”.
But there are also positive examples, such as the Lausitz model region. With federal funding, new research centers for digitization in medicine are being created in south-east Brandenburg.