An interview with Stefan Lob, CEO of Praxis für Führung – X.0 GmbH
It’s no secret that despite the opportunities offered by new technology, some people fundamentally distrust it. Even if many people would not feel averse to innovation in the healthcare industry, they still have reservations. Stefan Lob, CEO of Praxis für Führung – X.0, talked to TRANSFER magazine about different ways to deal with skepticism and why critical discussion in this area is actually helpful. For some years now, Lob has been working with startups that introduce digital technology to healthcare and domestic use with the aim of linking up patients, doctors, and service providers. Lob moderated the Everyday Healthcare track at the second #techourfuture event on the future of healthcare.
Hello Mr. Lob. Why do you believe it is important to inform society about future technologies?
Digital solutions are entering more and more into our lives, across all age groups, professions, and private areas. So in Germany we need to find ways to bring as many people on board with digital transformation as possible and, importantly, gain their trust – although of course everyone will need to do things at their own speed. That’s a huge challenge. But it also means we have to look at the topic from a critical angle. I think it’s important to consider the fact that there are different groups of people within society, with different interests, but also different experiences of using technology.
What prejudices do your hear about new technology in the course of your work?
My job has involved working with a lot of suppliers of healthcare services – from nurses to physicians; we help them with digital transformation. In specific terms, this means for example that we develop small digital devices for communicating between different nursing personnel and people working in outpatient care, but also software that paves the way for telemedicine and televisits – communication between patients and doctors. The people who provide services, i.e. the nurses and doctors, are generally very positive about things, but we also hear criticism, for example when it comes to storing data safely. But similarly, patients also have their reservations. When I’m a patient, not only do I see benefits in having digital case files, which people like physicians or physiotherapists can look into. It’s not a possibility that was open to us until now, except in big hospitals where they might have several groups of specialists working together. But just like lots of other patients, I do have concerns about data privacy. What would happen if my personal data fell into the wrong hands? It’s important that every individual is given a chance to get to know a technology and weigh up the opportunities and threats. It’s important to give people support, but we also need to think about their misgivings. But we need to be honest and tell people that there’s no such thing as 100% safe. We can try to make things 99% safe, and with some forms of technology that is possible.
We’re currently working on a project with the Protestant social services in Baden, involving the development of a kind of WhatsApp service for people who need care, their relatives, and outpatient nursing providers. We’re specifically addressing the requirements of people in need of care and their relatives. Currently, 75% of all nursing support in Germany is provided by relatives at home, with or without the support of outpatient nursing providers. Naturally that brings up lots of questions, from all angles, and that’s something WhatsApp can help with. Despite this, lots of people are averse to using a service that came from the United States rather than a European supplier. That’s where we come into play with our development services, which allow us to focus closely on the desires of the user.
Do people worry about things like technological breakdowns? Do you get the impression that people trust technology less than people?
I think it’s less to do with technological breakdowns and more to do with people’s lack of technical experience or previous negative experiences with technology. If we take telemedicine as an example – where despite trying several times to set up a video link, everything goes wrong because there’s not enough bandwidth, so the only way for the doctor to speak to the patient is on the phone – it’s quite possible that a patient won’t want to make use of telemedicine any more. Technological setups are extremely important. And sometimes, especially with older patients, you need someone to explain the technology to them and how to use it. This has been underscored by experience with other projects.
Which new technologies in the field of health and medicine would you use yourself, or at least accept? And which would you perhaps reject in certain areas?
If we stay with telemedicine, I’ve often used it myself. I work for the emergency services and we regularly have cases where we’re with a patient and the telemedical emergency doctor gets added to the conversation by the control center. Because we can interact with one another, even if the emergency doctor’s not actually there in the room, we can treat the patient better and connect with them. I’ve also had my first positive experiences with the use of robots at inpatient nursing facilities. And there are further new developments in the field of surgical technology, etc. Of course we have to make sure the new technology doesn’t result in patients not being able to book appointments, or having more difficulty finding time with a doctor they trust or a specialist. Sometimes you really need to talk to somebody personally, not on a screen.
I think receiving help from telemedicine and digital technology will allow us to make healthcare services more effective. Digital transformation will enable us to change lots of processes, so that people who are available will be given more time to work with patients – I’m convinced it will. I also believe that digital solutions will help us provide good healthcare services in rural areas. I strongly believe that digital solutions in this area are more of an opportunity to us than a threat.