Dr. Florian Fuhrmann (MD kv.digital)
Dr. Florian Fuhrmann has been managing director of kv.digital, a subsidiary of the Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV, National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians) since its foundation in 2014. He has been working in the healthcare sector for more than 15 years, primarily in the areas of digitization, eHealth, telematics, managed care, and outpatient and inpatient care.
Before founding kv.digital, he worked for an international IT company and a hospital operator, among other employers. In addition to his work as Managing Director of kv.digital GmbH, he is a member of the "Innovation Meets Politics" jury of the German Federal Ministry of Health and the jury of the "European Institute of Innovation & Technology" (EIT). As a member of the board of the "Verband digitale Gesundheit" (Digital Health Association), he heads the organization’s Department of Care and Networking. He lives with his wife and four children in Stuttgart, with his main office in Berlin.
Can you explain your job to a five year old?
In our company, we work for physicians in private practice—just like your pediatrician, if he has a registered office. When you go to his practice, we want to make sure that he no longer needs paper, but can organize everything with the computer. We help to ensure, for example, that the doctor's letters and laboratory data that are important for your treatment can be sent from the computer. But also that your parents can book your doctor's appointments directly from their cell phones. We believe that too much paper is not a good idea. You lose it quickly, it can get into the wrong hands, you don't have it with you when you need it, and it's not good for the environment either.
What excites you most about your job?
Digitization is an important prerequisite for better medical care—and not just for outpatient care, like in our case. Digitization makes work faster and more efficient, allowing doctors to focus on their core competency, which is medicine. It also makes things much easier for patients: with online appointment bookings, electronic certificates of incapacity (eAU), patient files, and e-prescriptions. All of this saves time and money, and in the end it's safer too.
On the one hand, our services cater directly to doctors. We offer various products via our communication platform, such as the KIM service kv.dox and its predecessor KV-Connect. This KIM service is the prerequisite for secure message exchange in the telematics infrastructure (the secure digital network of the federal German healthcare system); it is the basis for the eAU, for example. kv.digital also handles the specification of message formats that are exchanged between institutions via KIM services in the outpatient sector.
On the other hand, we offer online services for patients via our healthcare platform, such as the doctor search and the e-appointment service of 116117 or, as is currently the case, the vaccination appointment service of 116117. This browser-based software is provided to the federal states of Germany by the government for making appointments in vaccination centers and, with over 12 million booked vaccination appointments, it is the most widely used appointment booking system in Germany. We are thus making an important contribution to simple and secure digital communication in the healthcare sector. That is what keeps me and my colleagues driving forward. Even if it is sometimes a real challenge for the team (i.e., when we have to develop and deploy a vaccination appointment service for the government within 30 days).
Which trend will change the future of medicine?
As a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV, National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians), we work exclusively for physicians and psychotherapists in the outpatient sector. This is an area in which a great digital movement has happened in recent months. In my view, two important trends here are video consultation hours and the digital exchange of structured data, both among service providers themselves and between them and their patients and other institutions. Video consultation hours make it easier for doctors and psychotherapists to reach their patients; they also eliminate unnecessary travel and waiting times. It is a service that brings great freedom to both sides and involves modern and more flexible care at the same time.
This digital exchange of structured data will simplify almost all processes, from appointment booking, medical history, therapy, and rehab, to billing and documentation. It will also significantly improve the quality of treatments. Thus, physician-centric data management will become increasingly patient-centric, which will also form the basis for the future use of artificial intelligence in care.
Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated?
That is a difficult question because of course it can only be judged correctly in retrospect. In my view, the important trends have been recognized and applied so far. For us, the more relevant question is probably whether trends are recognized and implemented quickly enough by the overall system. In our case, this often requires legislative intervention. Even if technical innovations have been available for years, a rollout often can only be forced by a legal standard. For example, the N2N-encrypted electronic doctor's letter was developed with the industry many years ago. However, the majority of physician letters were exchanged via fax until fax was prohibited by law. And still fax is widely used to transfer patient data.
In addition, data protection plays a very important role in all processes to be established, as patient data is always highly sensitive and worth protecting. But here too we have gained enormous momentum in recent years. For us, the issue of data security has been a very high priority. That was one of the reasons why our e-appointment service was awarded top marks by Stiftung Warentest at the beginning of the year, as the test winner among online appointment portals.
However, another aspect—even though it has no digital origin—should never be neglected: the personal relationship between doctor and patient. For me, the trend toward using digital solutions to take the pressure off doctors so that the focus can be more on the interpersonal relationship is most important.
Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention?
In my view, the BMG's Health Innovation Hub (hih) is a very important initiative. It aims to further explore the possibilities of digitization, and develop ideas and concepts to improve healthcare. The hih brings together the various players in the healthcare sector. Thus, it is a bridge-builder, think tank, sparring partner, and implementation supporter, all at the same time. In the German healthcare system, bringing together public corporations and the private sector is enormously important. We too are trying to support this with our digital.hub, and bring start-ups and other companies together with the KVs, as well as doctors and psychotherapists. I also enjoy my work as a member of the "Innovation Meets Politics" jury, the startup initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Health.
Where would you put a million dollars?
Education and digitization must go hand in hand. During the coronavirus crisis, I witnessed through my children too many of their classmates, their siblings, or entire families having to share the end devices for digital lessons, etc. This leads to disputes and children missing a lot of learning material. I would therefore put this and much more money into devices for children and young people from socially-disadvantaged households. Everyone must have access to education—and to digitization. But of course, $1 million is not a sum that can move worlds. We all know that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re!
Unwavering in the matter, but gentle in the procedure.