Germany’s leading health chief information officer has compared the adoption of e-health by many healthcare organisations to the Trabant.

Uwe Poettgen, chief information officer of Asklepios Hospitals, told the World of Health IT conference in Budapest that what was needed was a Volkswagen-style approach.

He compared the 18-year waiting lists for individually built East German Trabants to Volkswagen’s common platform, which enables it to rapidly and cheaply develop new cars. As a result, a Skoda shares 60% of the same parts as an Audi TT.

“For me it’s a scandal that main data medium is paper and main carrier of information is the patient," Poettgen said.

Poettgen outlined how Asklepios has followed Volkswagen and implemented a common platform to drive down costs and allow new digital services to be quickly developed and launched.

Asklepios established a future digital hospital programme in 2005 with Intel and Microsoft, which now has 26 industrial partners. “Our main aim is to transfer hospital processes into telecare processes,” he explained.

“If you want to deliver services for hundreds of thousands you need standards. We established a standard for IT; it reduces operating costs 30%.”

The CIO of the 66 hospital chain said e-health was critical to streamline processes, reduce costs and give patients the kind of responsive, immediate services they expect from almost every other aspect of their digital lives.

“There is no doubt for me that e-health can increase the quality of care and reduce the cost. I need e-health," he told the conference, which is taking place in Budapest as part of eHealth Week. 

Poettgen told the audience that the huge health and social care challenges of Europe’s ageing populations must be met with digital services and a shift from hospital services to telehealth models.

He said this was something else that Asklepios has been working on with industry partners for the past five years. He also said that older people are one of the most enthusiastic adopters of online services.

He told the story of how his 66-year neighbour had invited to him to be a friend on Facebook last month, and how his neighbour had been followed by the village baker. “Maybe I need to change my account,” he joked. “Baby boomers like to talk on the internet.”

Poettgen’s central theme was the need to plug the growing gap between the way citizens access services in a digital world and the way they access services in the the still paper-based world of healthcare.

He asked for a show of hands on how many delegates had booked their trip to Budapest online and how many had sent a GP letter to their hospital or emailed their GP.

He contrasted the near unanimous sea of hands for the former with the handful of e-health service users. “That’s why pressure on the healthcare systems exists.”

Poettgen identified the ‘Wikipedia effect’ as another phenomneon, saying that it is just affecting health and allowing patients to talk to each other. He identified PatientsLikeMe as a site that gave patients more power.

Asklepios has also launched its own personal health record, based on Microsoft HealthVault, and available on iTunes. Patients using Asklepios Virtual Medical Centre can now communicate directly with medical professional.

Poettgen said the goal was simple: “Our one target to support patient and give them the level of service they should expect from their healthcare provider."