Image sources f.l.t.r.: © Jan Pauls | © DATATREE AG | © Ronald Frommann | UKE | © KVWL | © bvitg

External Advisory Board strengthens the Digital Hub DISTANCE with interdisciplinary expertise

The External Advisory Board (EAB) of the DISTANCE Hub (Digital Smart Hub for Advanced Connected Care) consists of experts from various disciplines and institutions in the field of digital health and supports the project team in an advisory capacity. In regular meetings, the EAB provides recommendations on how to achieve the project goals and monitors their implementation. At the end of November, the DISTANCE project management team met for the first time with the new External Advisory Board of the DISTANCE Digital Hub in Düsseldorf.

During this first meeting, the new EAB had the opportunity to get to know the DISTANCE Team and the project on a personal level. The main goal of the DISTANCE Hub is to establish a scalable technical infrastructure for cross-sector data exchange between regional healthcare providers and clinical research. This new data infrastructure will foster digital innovation in regional healthcare and improve patient care. It will also enable the digital capture of longitudinal data and artificial intelligence applications.

The clinical Use Case PICOS (Post Intensive Care Outcome Surveillance) demonstrates exactly these functions: The PICOS App supports the outpatient follow-up of former intensive care patients. After being discharged from the ICU, patients often suffer from physical and psychological symptoms that can limit their quality of life. Patients can enter their symptoms and vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose or sleep quality into the PICOS App to monitor their own health. At the same time, the PICOS study is collecting longitudinal data for research into post-intensive care syndrome (PICS).

First hospitals connected to the Digital Hub

After the general introduction to the DISTANCE project, we delved into the technical details of the current project status. The basic version of the Digital Hub, the project’s internal data storage platform, has already been implemented. A so-called “Connect Box” has been installed in two partner hospitals, and all other partners are expected to be equipped by the end of January 2024. The Digital Hub or Connect Box software serves as a platform for the exchange of healthcare data in the ambulatory and inpatient sectors and is based on the digital infrastructure of the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII). In addition, six hospitals are already able to enroll patients in the PICOS study. In parallel, the Center for Telematics and Telemedicine (ZTG GmbH) is preparing a cost-benefit analysis for the provision of care data with a view to a national rollout.

Finally, the perspectives, challenges and opportunities of the Digital Progress Hub were discussed with the EAB. In the future, patient empowerment in the project will be improved and the benefits of the PICOS App for patients will be more strongly emphasized. To this end, a stronger involvement of the patient representatives in the DISTANCE Hub, Deutsche Sepsishilfe e. V., was discussed. How to establish the app as a medical device was also subject in the discussions.

The EAB recommends a stronger focus on the users of the PICOS App

In their recommendations, the EAB members addressed a possible bundling of competencies in the German Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – however, this cannot and should not be the task of the Digital Hubs. It was also recommended to specify the benefits of the application for both patients and physicians. For example, it would be advisable to implement warnings in the app in case of suspected PICS, according to the EAB. Another recommendation was the inclusion of the Federal Patient Representative in the EAB in order to strengthen the patient orientation of the app and the project. In the future, the PICOS app could be introduced as a medical product specifically for physicians in private practice.

These are the new members of the EAB:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Debatin (former Chairman Health Innovation Hub)

Prof. Dr. Jörg Debatin is an independent healthcare entrepreneur. He served as Chairman of the Health Innovation Hub of the German Federal Ministry of Health until 2021 and was previously Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer of GE Healthcare, a medical technology and healthcare services company. He began his career in healthcare as a specialist in diagnostic radiology and full professor of diagnostic radiology at Essen University Hospital. He later became CEO and Medical Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and CEO of amedes Holding AG.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäschke (Member of the Executive Board of DATATREE AG)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäschke is board member of DATATREE AG. The company advises public and private institutions in the areas of compliance, data protection and IT security. He works as an external data protection officer, in strategic consulting and in project management for health care institutions. Professor Jäschke has also managed several companies in the fields of digital health and data protection. He has extensive experience in consulting on digitization projects and in the custom development of mobile health applications.

Prof. Dr. Markus Löffler (SMITH Consortium Leader)

Prof. Dr. Markus Löffler leads the SMITH Consortium and the medical informatics project INTERPOLAR. Until June 2023, he was Director of the Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology at the Leipzig University. During his academic career as a physician and physicist, he shaped the field of “theoretical medicine” and later specialized in biometric research. Since then, he has been intensively involved in statistical analysis and evaluation in medicine.

Jakob Scholz (Deputy Head of IT & Digital Health | Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Westfalen Lippe)

Jakob Scholz is deputy head of the IT & Digital Health department at the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Westfalen Lippe (KVWL). In this position, he is in contact with physicians and psychotherapists in private practice regarding telematics infrastructure. Jakob Scholz is committed to creating useful, interoperable, and user-friendly applications in healthcare to increase the acceptance of digital solutions in the medical profession. In addition to his work at the KVWL, he is on the board of Digital Healthcare e.V. and Elektronische Fallakte e.V., as well as head of the Telematics Expert Forum at the Center for Telematics and Telemedicine (ZTG GmbH).

Melanie Wendling (Managing Director of the German Healthcare IT Association (bvitg) e. V.)

Melanie Wendling has been managing director of the German Healthcare IT Association (Bundesverband Gesundheits-IT – bvitg e. V.) since August 2002. Previously, she was head of the Health and Rehabilitation Department at the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung).

After studying law and training at the RTL School of Journalism, she began her career at the Federal Ministry of Health as personal advisor to Federal Minister Ulla Schmidt and Federal Minister Philipp Rösler. She then moved to Telekom Healthcare Solutions, where she was responsible for managing political affairs and representing the company in associations.

We welcome the new DISTANCE External Advisory Board and look forward to a constructive cooperation!