Denkwerkstatt für Manager

Geschwill & Nieswandt

Digitization in healthcare

Do you know what robo-rats are? In New York, brain researchers are fitting rats with brain electrodes to improve the rodents' power of concentration. The U.S. Army is working on helmets that can perform a similar function in humans. We reported on these and many other developments in "digital health" at the Smart Culture in Healthcare symposium in Berlin on June 16.

In our proven rhythm, a 20-minute lecture is followed by a critical discourse, Roland Geschwill started the symposium day with a lecture on the US futurologist Alvin Toffler. His thesis: "The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who can't read and write, but those who don't learn, unlearn and learn again." A thesis that Toffler put forward back in 1970 - and which is more relevant today than ever before.

And because it is certain that our workplaces will become increasingly digitalized, we will also have to learn more and more - which will result in an enormous learning program. A development that Toffler already foresaw 50 years ago.
However, this pressure to learn is not only a challenge for employees and managers, but also for companies that have to position themselves accordingly. The experiences of the symposium participants are therefore not surprising:

We all want to live as long as possible, self-determined and healthy in our own four walls. Digital and technical trends in all areas of life support us in this. Healthcare also has two faces: On the one hand, we operate with prescriptions that come from the printer and are accordingly digital, although they are still handed out in paper form. On the other hand, medicine uses invasive nanosensors that produce a wealth of data about people for evaluation.


The fact is, it's getting easier and easier to get and stay digitally healthy. 

We are supported by diabetes therapies via cloud computing, the virtual doctor, electronic case and patient records, wearables, etc., among other things.

 But why is so little happening in Germany?

"Those who always do what they already know how to do will always remain what they already are."
Henry Ford

A multitude of problems are responsible for this: On the one hand, there are the different interest groups and health sectors, the high technical complexity, the strict requirements for data protection and data security, the unclear international guidelines, and unresolved financing issues. 

On the other hand, there is a lack of standards and interoperability, federal health and self-governance systems, divergent and heterogeneous patient interests, a difficult investment climate, and a lack of national, nationwide solutions, among others.

Problem understood - and now?

The fact is, it's getting easier and easier to get and stay digitally healthy. 

We are supported by diabetes therapies via cloud computing, the virtual doctor, electronic case and patient records, wearables, etc., among other things.

 But why is so little happening in Germany?

Thesis 1: Digitization is changing the economy and society as much as electricity did 100 years ago!

Mankind today produces as much data in two days as it did in all of history up to the year 2003. This total amount of data doubles every two years, so that by 2020 it will be 40,000 exabytes (40 million gigabytes). 

Then the optimum of data processing has probably been reached and the end of Moore's Law has come. One exabyte has the storage capacity for 250 million DVDs. In 30 minutes, mankind produces as much data as is currently stored in the U.S. Library of Congress. 

Thesis 2: 60 percent of all jobs and business models in Germany will be transformed in the next 10 years!

2013: Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne publish in their study. The Future of Employmentthat 47 percent of existing jobs in the U.S. will be obsolete in 10 to 15 years.

2015: ING-DiBa arrives at even more dramatic results: For Germany, it is estimated that 59 percent of all jobs will be up for grabs in the next ten years. 30 million jobs were analyzed, 18 million are in jeopardy due to increasing digitalization. 

The German government and LBBW's new study Digitalization and Labor Markets assume that ONLY about half of the jobs in Germany will be affected.

Thesis 3: Wrong focus: Almost all studies discuss robots, process chains and data management. The essential change, however, is the end of the hierarchical factory model and new forms of leadership, decision-making and collaboration in organizations!

Modern organizations must move away from models that are driven from the top down. 

After all, companies can only achieve cultural change if they lead at eye level, shift decision-making processes further down the chain, and collaborate across departments.


Many digitization studies focus exclusively on the technical changes. If anything, there is a brief mention at the very end that this also goes hand in hand with cultural changes.

What this means in concrete terms is not usually specified.

 First of all, culture changes need a long ramp-up period as well as stringency in implementation. 

A competence model that focuses on self-leadership and personal responsibility contributes to the sustainable anchoring of cultural development.

Checklist for the introduction of lateral management:
  • The first line of management must be convinced that it is right and important to invest sustainably in lateral management and thus in cultural processes.
  • Develop a target projection that defines laterality and culture. To be clarified: In which areas should lateral management take effect in the future? In management, with employees, customers, suppliers ...?
  • The management level should be the essential carrier of the development: away from the hierarchy of instructions, towards the hierarchy of responsibility.
  • Leadership should credibly model the new beginning so that middle management can become the catalyst for culture change. Above all, it should let go of the everything-in-hand mentality.
  • In addition, accompanying evaluations are required to determine the respective status and - if necessary - to enable readjustments.
  • A competency model that formulates the expectations of responsible managers must be the basis of the management culture/structure.
  • A development of the management culture is best realized as a project in which project managers advise the management.
  • To note: Each organization has its own history, purpose and individual mission/business model.
  • The changed corporate culture must be developed to fit the organization exactly.

The discourse will continue over the next few years. But action must start immediately if we don't want to be run over by the digitization train. And it is better to be a signal giver than to stand at the track and wave a handkerchief.

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