The second congress of the SMITH Consortium aimed to think outside of the box. In addition to the presentation of our consortial results, achieved during the set-up and networking phase of the Medical Informatics Initiative, we also took a look at national and European developments. The transfer of digital innovations to regional care, among other aspects, was addressed using the example of the “Digital Hubs: Advances in Research and Health Care” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The opportunities offered by digitization in medicine were focused in all topics, with the aim of linking research and care in the best possible and most sustainable way. This development requires highly qualified personnel. Strengthening digital competencies and medical informatics education was another focus we explored at the SMITH Congress 2022.
Sustainability is also a future overarching theme for digital medicine, going far beyond mere funding and financial viability. Research and patient care should no longer be considered and experienced separately from one another. At the transition point at which Germany currently stands, it is important to emphasize that digitization in healthcare is not an end in itself. Consequently, digital tools that find their way into patient care must also be evaluated and, if necessary, meet the requirements for a medical device. The SMITH 2022 Congress highlighted the extent to which such challenges can be addressed in the university context.
The Medical Informatics Initiative placed University Medical Centers in a 'pole position' for digitization in medicine. From the outset, the aim was to involve other partners in the healthcare sector in the developments. Through the funding line 'Digital Hubs: Advances in Research and Health Care' of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, a number of pilot projects are now underway to address this development. We offer a platform for the Digital Hubs to network and report on their initial experiences.
One pillar of the Medical Informatics Initiative is the strengthening of research and education. In the SMITH Consortium, six new professorships, four junior research groups and three new study programs as well as a variety of continuing education programs have been established. These groups presented themselves at our congress and were able to show how, after data has been made accessible, the issue of data handling is becoming increasingly important for all stakeholders.
Digitization in medicine does not end at national borders. The idea of a 'European Health Data Space' has been drafted as a major goal. The SMITH 2022 Congress reported on the status quo and raised the questions of how citizens can participate in this and what components are still needed in addition to international efforts to achieve interoperability.