Portrait of Barmer CIO Jürgen Rothmaier in front of a banner of BARMER; black-and-white-gradient

“Do it honestly.”

With 9.1 million insured persons, BARMER is one of the largest health insurance companies in Europe. 

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What is the very mission of every player in the healthcare industry? Not to lose sight of the core business. And that is: to provide us people and the extremely complex system on which our health is based with the best possible care. This is a major task, even for health insurance companies, because in hardly any other industry is the “best possible” based on as many standards as in the health care sector. Ethical and economic, moral and technical, social, political and so on. What works and what doesn’t? Are the innovations really substantial, or are they just showmanship? It is, therefore, important for all those involved in healthcare that they “do things honestly” again and again.

Processes increasingly digital

Example: digitalization. It will dramatically change healthcare worldwide in the coming years. However, in this country more than others, with direct effects on the work of health insurers. People in many countries envy our health insurance landscape and the care system it provides for patients. But when it comes to costs and efficiency, or our competitiveness – in other words, maintaining the health of this health insurance landscape at its core – the path to an increasingly digital health insurance system and increasingly digital service, care and billing processes is the only one to take. The only annoying thing is that we in Germany have stood in place for far too long on precisely this point. We have stood still on the introduction of a secure health data network for example. As of January 2019, the legislator decided to allocate 51 percent of the shares and thus control over the gematik-Gesellschaft to the federal government, finally getting things moving.

Digital Power Center

Also, internally, when it comes to our own processes and communication flows, we have to keep up with health insurance companies if we want to play a major role in digitalization. For example, we ourselves founded the “BARMER.i” organizational unit, which is our digital power centre and the heartbeat of our comprehensive digitalization strategy. It enables us to develop innovations that help us focus even more strongly on our customers and their expectations. Everyone can understand the calculation behind it: when processing routines are increasingly supported by intelligent digital systems, our employees have more room for the care of the insured. And their healthcare is moving even closer to where it belongs – to the centre of our actions.

Outstanding responsibility of the health insurance funds

Picture of Barmer CIO Jürgen Rothmaier

Jürgen Rothmaier, BARMER Deputy Chairman of the Board

Jürgen Rothmaier’s professional career began at BARMER in 1978. After holding positions as Managing Director in Essen and Wuppertal, he was appointed State Managing Director of the company in Rhineland-Palatinate in 1998. In 2001, Rothmaier moved to the Wuppertal head office, where he headed the Organisation Department. In 2006, Rothmaier was elected a member of the Board. In 2015, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Management Board. In this function, he is responsible for Information Technology as well as Marketing and Sales.

However, the undisputed focus of every health insurance company is also on being aware of its outstanding social and health policy responsibility when it comes to dealing with data. From my point of view, there are two sides to this: of course, many companies in the healthcare industry have difficulties consolidating the wealth of data that they collect and translating it into realisable results. Most data is stored in separate silos. This is due to the need to comply with strict privacy policies and laws, which in turn means that different clinical, financial and operational data is stored separately. And in case of any doubt, almost every data access or exchange must be secured, encrypted and controlled as much as possible.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

As if that were not enough complexity, the increasing variation of unstructured data types generated from formats such as transcribed notes, images and videos is added. The intelligent use of technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, I am firmly convinced, will bring us closer to the interoperability of these silos.

The second side of the coin concerns the use of data for the benefit of the people from whom we have mostly received this data in the first place. For me, this is a requirement of every health insurance company. Without them, we would not have the opportunity to exploit the power of highly developed data technologies to process data into information in immense quantities, at high speeds and across a multitude of networks and to use the resulting quantitative findings as a basis for decision-making and action.

Prevention and optimization using data

Picture by Barmer CIO Jürgen Rothmaier photographed from below, Mr Rothmaier leaning against a column

Jürgen Rothmaier, CEO of Barmer

In my view, there are two areas that would benefit most. On the one hand, data helps doctors to create better patient profiles and predictive models in order to anticipate, diagnose and treat diseases more effectively. This leads to new insights and opportunities that would normally take generations to uncover. Such a breakthrough would lead to proactive and preventive communication with the patient from the predominantly reactive practice of daily medical routines.

On the other hand, and this must be discussed completely openly, data should also be the focus of a well-founded business decision. Since, as the saying goes, it is “about business,” which inevitably results from the fact that all of us, without exception, oscillate more or less between health and illness in the course of our lives. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it stays. This is not changed by the fact that we as human beings, like every health insurance company, only benefit if a customer does not become a patient in the first place.

Identify trends with data analysis

With forecasting methods, health professionals can anticipate future developments much more reliably and make better business decisions that are supported by numbers rather than expectations. Using data analysis to identify trends, demand and treatment patterns also eliminates inefficiencies and reduces unnecessary expenses. This is equally important for all benefit recipients, contributors and us as statutory payers in view of the rising costs of healthcare worldwide.

That brings me back to my original claim. I call the people who shape the expectations of many of our customers today, “G.A.F.A.s,” for example. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are the ones that lead anyone who orders goods on the Internet today to expect “delivery tomorrow.” Customers also transfer this claim to the services of a health insurance company. This is one of the reasons why we have to keep thinking ahead in the context of information and communication technology. So that innovations in this sense help to make processes sleeker and more efficient and ultimately improve service quality for our customers.

Contact: Udo.Lingen@t-systems.com

More Information: www.barmer.com

More Information: www.t-systems.com/success-stories/barmer-digital-assistant

Author: Jürgen Rothmaier
Photos: Oliver Krato

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