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DMEA 2019: From industry-specific meeting to a source of fresh healthcare ideas and impetus

TMF an active participant at the new digital healthcare platform

15 April 2019. DMEA, Europe’s largest digital health event, successfully concluded in Berlin last week, recording approximately 10,800 visitors, 570 exhibitors and 350 speakers. Previously known as conhIT, the exhibition and conference has re-positioned itself as a platform for digital healthcare, addressing a greater range of topics, a broader target group and featuring new interactive formats. TMF was an active participant, with its own stand in hall 1.2, and as an organiser of a number of conference sessions.

The votes cast by the audience of the popular DMEA session on the responsible handling of patient data would suggest that there is a great willingness to donate data for research. In Germany, there has been a change in mood in recent times: whereas five years ago, the public was largely sceptical about the concept of a “transparent patient”, today there is now a greater readiness to be more open towards the opportunities created by digital transformation. Patients are empowered by innovative digital tools, doctors are able to offer a greater number of, and more stratified, diagnoses and treatments, and research specialists are able to leverage digital technologies to access large pools of data records. The list of possibilities is long, and there is a general expectation of positive change amongst all healthcare stakeholders.


From left to right: Sebastian Claudius Semler, Executive Director, Technology, Methods and Infrastructure for Networked Medical Research (TMF); Holger Langhof, Research Fellow, Charité Berlin, Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), QUEST- Center for Transforming Biomedical Research; Dr Peter Gocke, Chief Digital Officer, Charité Berlin; Bernhard Calmer, Director of Business Development, Cerner Health Services Germany; Gerlinde Bendzuck, Chair of LV Selbsthilfe Berlin (a patient self-help association)  

In her presentation, Gerlinde Bendzuck, Chair of LV Selbsthilfe Berlin, called for greater efforts to gain the understanding and support of the general public, and to help them acquire more “digital health skills” in order to keep pace with changes in society. One in three Germans feels overwhelmed by the dynamism and complexity of digital transformation, she reported.

“We lack the standardisation needed to exchange health data,” stated Dr Peter Gocke, Chief Digital Officer at Charité Berlin. He argued that because the healthcare system itself fails to collect data to a sufficient degree, patients are doing so themselves with the help of digital tools. Patients are willing to pass on their data, but the German healthcare system is not equipped to process them. And the dividing lines between healthcare sectors are of little interest to patients.

Speaking from the perspective of a global healthcare IT company, Bernhard Calmer, Cerner Health Services Germany, highlighted the need for large-scale infrastructure in healthcare in order to collect and analyse data for larger cohorts. This will require cooperation between multiple universities to “create value for all stakeholders.”


Holger Langhof, Berlin Institute of Health
Ethics research specialist Holger Langhof from the Berlin Institute of Health suggested that the era of big data makes it necessary to rethink ethics. We will need new ethics concepts for medical big data. Consent processes, data use and access, ownership issues, etc. are all aspects of big data that need to be discussed in consideration of their ethics.

At the conclusion of the session, Sebastian Claudius Semler, Executive Director of TMF, asked panel participants: “ Who could be responsbile for for national and centralised data records?”

The participants felt it was a task that falls to government, and is best performed by an independent institution or foundation.

State Secretary Luft: Medical Informatics Initiative exemplary for a culture of data sharing
DMEA attendees showed great interest in the insights format “Medical Informatics Initiative: Reports from the Consortia,” where three of the initiative’s four funded consortia presented the goals and achievements of their use cases within the scope of a working discussion.

Christian Luft, State Secretary, Federal  Ministry of Education and Research  

Immediately afterwards, a 90-minute session entitled “The First Year of the Medical Informatics Initiative: Results and Future Possibilities” began on DMEA stage A and was also live-streamed. It kicked off with an opening address on the part of Christian Luft, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Luft emphasised that the IT technology alone would not be able to realise the full potential of the digital transformation of healthcare: “Research and healthcare must work more closely together in future. We require genuine, active data sharing between all stakeholders.” He underlined that electronic patient records compatible with research are a key success factor. This would enable data to be shared between physicians treating patients. At the same time, where patients have given consent, these data could be used for scientific analysis. “Much too much information on disease progression and successful and unsuccessful outcomes of diverse treatments remain unused and dormant – on paper, in incompatible computer programs or in the heads of just a few experts,” stated Luft.


From left to right: Martin Peuker, Chief Information Officer, Charité Berlin; Berlin Institute of Health (HiGHmed consortium); Dr Danny Ammon, Head of the Data Integration Centre, Jena University Hospital (SMITH consortium); Professor Martin Sedlmayr, Chair of Medical Informatics, Faculty of Medicine Carl Gustav Carus, TUD Technical University of Dresden, Institute for Medical Informatics and Biometry (MIRACUM consortium); State Secretary Christian Luft, Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Sebastian Claudius Semler, Executive Director, Technology, Methods and Infrastructure for Networked Medical Research (TMF); Dr Fabian Prasser, Technical Coordinator of DIFUTURE, TUM – Technical University of Munich (DIFUTURE consortium); Dr Ben Illigens, German Association of Academic Medical Centers (VUD)

The way participants in the Medical Informatics Initiative cooperate is a role model for a culture of shared data usage. Within a remarkably short timeframe, the initiative has succeeded in securing agreements within its National Steering Committee on a broad range of topics that had previously been managed by each hospital and research institution in its own individual way: “The Medical Informatics Initiative is a source of fresh ideas and impetus in many areas of healthcare digitisation: electronic patient records that meet the imperatives of research and healthcare, and for the use of international standards,” said Luft. The great success of the initiative has prompted the Ministry to provide additional funding, and it is willing to invest even more to enable further work on integration. Subsequently the initiative’s four funded consortia, DIFUTURE, HiGHmed, MIRACUM and SMITH, and its Coordination Office presented the initial achievements and outlined the next steps.



Digital tools for patient-oriented research for a learning healthcare system

At DMEA’s conclusion, TMF hosted a session at the Berlin exhibition centre that had originally been part of the programme of this year’s annual TMF conference on 20 and 21 March 2019 at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn. DZNE is a member of TMF, with a total of ten sites. Moderated by Stefan Rabe (TMF), representatives of DZNE’s facilities in Rostock-Greifswald and Magdeburg described two examples of successful digital, patient-oriented and translational research.



Dr Armin Keller, DZNE Rostock-Greifswald, presented recent insights gained from the DelpHi study of the German State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. With the help of an in-house-developed computer system, care managers had created personalised treatment and care plans that were provided to the patients’ own general practitioners (GPs). The computer-aided intervention management system (IMS) proved to be significantly superior to a human-only assessment of the situation. “The IMS-generated recommendations for personalised and guideline-compliant out-patient care of dementia patients had a high degree of acceptance amongst the participating doctors, and on the part of the health insurers,” reported Dr Keller. Working together, project participants had been able to improve patient quality of life and to substantially ease the burden on families.


 Professor Emrah Düzel, University Hospital Magdeburg  

The latest methods of molecular diagnostics for Alzheimer’s disease using imaging technologies are the scientific basis for the neotiv app presented by Professor Emrah Düzel, University Hospital Magdeburg. Special tests on mobile devices enable early diagnosis and continuous monitoring of disease progression. The goal is to rapidly identify the onset of the disease in the individual patient and to intervene. In future, the app will make it possible to directly use patient-captured “citizen science” data in research, for example on the impact of infections on the underlying condition. As Professor Düzel explained, “By 2025, digital tools such as the neotiv app will play a crucial role in early treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.”

DMEA 2020 will take place in Berlin from 21 to 23 April 2020.

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