‘mHealth’ – an interview with C. Peter Waegemann
Twenty-five years ago, C. Peter Waegemann was one of the initiators of the ‘electronic health record’ in Germany. Today, he is using the catchword ‘mHealth’ to promote much more extensive digitalisation of the health system. The Alumniportal talked with him about this.
Mr Waegemann, you were one of the initiators of the electronic health record in Germany. Today, you are calling for medicine to move towards ‘eHealth’ and ‘mHealth’. What do these terms stand for?
C. Peter Waegemann: We haven’t yet delivered on our promise of the electronic health record. But that’s another story. My new vision involves an eHealth system as part of a digital society. eHealth has four components: 1. digital functions in diagnosing and treating illnesses, 2. modern communication among all areas of medical care, 3. including the patient by means of new communication technologies and data collection ‘at home’ and finally, 4. the use of medical social media, big data and collective intelligence. In this area, there is huge potential that has so far gone untapped, especially in Germany.
What do you think has to happen in order for this to change?
C. Peter Waegemann: ‘Mobile health’, or ‘mHealth’ for short, is an essential component of eHealth, if not the most important one. The concept has five components. The first one is nearly unrestricted access to data in the health sector (from physicians to yoga instructors, as well as the patients themselves). The second one involves new ways of communicating with the patients, among the patients and among everyone professionally involved with the patients’ health. And this communication needs to occur via every available channel and with the use of mobile diagnosis apps and web applications. The third component comprises the use of artificial intelligence for decision-making processes. The fourth component encompasses better documentation that is close to the patient, including coding for accounting. The fifth and final component is the use of digital apps in all areas.
All of these components require mobile functions to fully exploit their potential. mHealth enables the treatment room to be moved from a doctor’s surgery and the hospital to a virtual room where treatment is provided via e-mail, text messages and other communication modalities. I am fully aware that many aspects of the eHealth concept run counter to data privacy laws in Germany. But I still hope that in Germany too, sooner or later the dangers of improperly understood data privacy regulations – and the opportunities provided by mHealth – will be recognised. After all, the number of doctor’s visits could be reduced by one-third or even one-half.
C. Peter Waegemann was CEO of the renowned Medical Records Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, advocating eHealth in 53 countries at universities and ministries and among the medical profession. He is recognised as a visionary in the digital society. The U.S. journal HealthLeaders named him one of the 20 outstanding people who make healthcare better. As an author, he recently published the book Knowledge Capital in the Digital Society. In 2013, after decades in the United States, Waegemann moved his headquarters to Berlin.
What role do the individual physicians play in your mHealth vision?
C. Peter Waegemann: The physicians of the future will be the centre of all patient data. They will use apps in their practices and artificial intelligence for diagnosing and treating diseases. They will regularly exchange information with their colleagues and other people dealing with the health of their patients and will check the health indicators collected from the patients, will explain them to them and will coordinate the further procedure with everyone involved. mHealth will make physicians the primary health coaches for their patients and for the entire health team around them. In fact, you can compare them with a conductor whom all of the orchestra members have to rely on. This is time-consuming – but the waiting rooms will also be emptier! The decisive factor is that the physicians of the future will have to be team players.
United Nations Foundation: Video Report ‘What is mHealth?’
Your experience on eHealth and mHealth
What do you think about thepredictions of ‘mHealth’ and digitalisation of medicine that go as far as C. Peter Waegemann advocates? And would you be prepared to open up your data to the extent he calls for? Share your experience on eHealth and mHealth in the comments below.