Deutsche Telekom is overcoming the distance between patients and doctors to maintain high standards of medical care or improve it even further. To do this, the company is developing intelligent solutions and making healthcare available on smartphones.
Demographic changes are having a two-fold negative impact on the healthcare system. With an increasingly aging population, the demand for medical care is rising. At the same time, fewer and fewer well-trained doctors and nurses are available, particularly in rural regions and those with poorly developed infrastructure. This means that patients have to cover ever greater distances to receive appropriate medical care. This is where telemedicine – remote medical care and collaboration – can help.
Since 2014, Deutsche Telekom Healthcare Solutions has been working with Carus Consilium Sachsen GmbH, a subsidiary of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden, in a unique Europe-wide partnership: CCS Telehealth Ostsachsen, or THOS for short. The partnership is the result of a project of the same name organized by the two partners to create this telemedicine platform, supported by structural funds from the EU and the Free State of Saxony (EFRE).
Patients under continuous observation
When patients are discharged from hospital following a heart attack, for example, they stay in touch with specially trained staff from the Dresden cardiac center – telenurses – for follow-up care via a tablet.
The patients complete online questionnaires on their state of health and use videos to gather information on how to live with their condition. The telenurse receives immediate feedback at their workstation on whether patients have seen or completed their tasks. Regular personal follow-up care for cardiac patients is provided at the center by a case manager using videotelephony. This kind of overall care is called telecoaching. The case manager is in constant contact with patients and monitors their condition. Where developments give cause for concern, the cardiac center can intervene immediately and ideally prevent a critical situation at an early stage. If necessary, a doctor’s visit or even a referral to hospital is arranged. The heart failure register provides the basis for this. This will enable patients in rural areas, in particular, to have reliable access to medical expertise in future, too.
Patients, doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies to plug in
In Saxony, a conscious decision has been made in favor of an open, cross-regional telemedicine platform that can be used to communicate with a diverse range of IT systems. This enables as many doctors as possible to be involved, regardless of the hardware or software they use. The platform offers interfaces between acute care, rehabilitation, and subsequent outpatient care. It is thus a "common language" for all relevant players in the health region. It allows for patients to be treated in the comfort of their own home.
A further challenge is the security of patient data, which requires special protection. A specially encrypted data network for exchanging information has been created for this purpose, with the servers for patient information also meeting the highest German data privacy standards.
As well as the telecoaching for patients with heart failure, the THOS platform currently features two other medical applications – telestroke and telepathology. Telestroke provides stroke patients with seamless continued care at home following acute treatment at a hospital. Telepathology helps doctors communicate with each other faster and more effectively. Digitally recorded tissue samples can be sent to partner hospitals for a second analysis.