Certified Orthopedic and Trauma Surgeon, Digital healthcare Researcher and consultant, M&A, PE and and VC advisor in healthcare.
PD Dr. med. Dominik Pförringer is a Munich based Orthopedic and Trauma Surgeon. Ever since his INSEAD MBA and Consulting experience he has worked enthusiastically in the German Digital Health sector, supporting investors, ventures as well as consulting PE firms in healthcare investments. He hosts an annual conference in November: https://www.digitalhealthsummit.de/
1. Please can you give us a little background about yourself and your current role?
I am an orthopedic and trauma surgeon based in Munich focusing my research on the field of digital health as well as supporting start-ups, investors and entrepreneurs. In Cooperation withUnternehmerTUM (the entrepreneurship branch of TU Munich) as well as my university hospital, Klinikum rechts der Isar, we have established a network as well as a series of events in addition to an annual conference revolving around developments in Digital Health Care entrepreneurship. Furthermore I treat orthopedic patients in my own office.
2. How did you become an innovator in healthcare?
After my MBA at INSEAD, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, I initially became a management consultant in an international consulting firm. Ever since my interest and dedication towards the topic of process optimization and specifically the employment of digital means has grown. I have quickly met likewise interested characters such as Prof. Dr. Jochen Werner, Prof. David Matusiewicz, PD Dr. Maike Henningsen, Bart de Witte, Prof. Helmut Schönenberger, Dr. Dominik Böhler and many others.
Through this I began to foster young growing plants in the field, started attending conferences, deepening my knowledge and broadening the horizon. I have ever since began sharing my acquired know-how at international as well as national conferences on the topic which led to a a continuously growing network in the field in parallel to an expanding knowledge base.
I am happy to now be on the forefront of this innovation path in Munich, Bavaria and to continuously nourish the idea, spread the message and grow new “plants”.
3. What are the benefits and risks of delivering mental health care through technology instead of face-to-face?
The so-called barrier to entry, the initial door can more easily be opened and passed virtually than in reality. A video conference, video call will never be able to 100 % replace a personal interaction with a doctor or therapist. However, in many situations it is either not possible due to distances or other reasons to allow for a personal exchange. In the current situation we were seeing a lot of legally enforced distancing which does not allow face-to-face contacts with the exception of urgent emergencies.
I do not consider it a risk, but a downside is the lack of the social factor and of not being able to fully perceive the status of a human being his body and mind in an online consulting. However, once a close relationship has been established between a doctor or a therapist and his or her patient it is of course possible to follow up with this patient’s development through remote consultation supported by technological means. So I see a bigger up side than downside risk in the recent developments.
4. What is the biggest challenge facing the public health sector?
This question cannot be answered sufficiently without certain framing. It depends on geography, legal framework, technical fundamentals as well as of course and most importantly: the human factor. Digital Health Literacy is one of the key factors to allow for rapid implementation and thus adaption of digital means and methods. In addition as always, the cost factor as well as a reimbursement framework guide the current challenges and decide on the speed of innovation.
Willingness and readiness to change often times pose an obstacle to innovation. In the old days, an engineer was asked by what time the steam engine will have fully replaced the horse. His answer was rather simple: by the time the last management board member who group up with only the horse will have disappeared. Progress in medicine seems to follow the same pace.
5. What health problems can be solved through technology?
Basically, everything that does not need a physical interference, so everything, that is right now performed in a conversation rather than an intervention can in parts be addressed via technological means e.g. video consultation. Note: in parts! I can possibly diagnose an orthopedic disease, however usually a physical examination is necessary to comprehense the entire picture.
That does not necessarily involve the internet or a technical device, beyond a regular phone. In that sense, telemedicine is not entirely new but physicians as well as patients have for many decades successfully gathered lots of experience in it. How supply and demand can be better matched through technological means remains to be seen on the long run. Secure and rapid transfer of data, omnipresence of connectivity will be one of the key factors in the advancement of digital health.
In addition it is our task to ensure training, teaching and coaching to allow for sufficient digital health literacy for future generations.
6. So in your opinion what is digital health going to look like in 5 years?
Well, the next 5 year time frame is going to positively surprise us by an addition several technical means supporting every day life of patients as well as medical professionals. These are in fact best described by the following examples.
- Rehabilitation and physiotherapy will mostly happen online
- Appointment scheduling and coordination will happen online
- Data can and will be shared through secure measures such as a distributed ledger technology (blockchain etc.)
7. What is the most interesting thing you have discovered working in the digital health space?
The most fascinating thing is often seen in other sectors as well:
There is no try, there is just a do.
He who dares to start action, to start inventing, to start developing is going to succeed. In other words, if you do, you have a chance, if you do not, you have already lost and given up.
Especially older physicians are much more open for innovation than we would think, especially for technological innovation. I see several patients about the age of 75 with a digitally registered appointment in my office. I see the so called “Silver Surfers” as the most technologically open subgroup as well as the younger generation, which grew up using the internet as well as technical devices on an every day basis.
Now it is the middle part in the bell curve which needs to be convinced. Convincing is the easiest achieved by offering technological solutions which work every day, render every task more simple and enjoyable and thus make everyday life easier.
I look forward to a digitally enhanced health care system in the near future. That is what my effort, my conferences and my network stand and work for.