Digitalization in the health sector: Making full use of the potential created by digital medical records

Electronic medical records are viewed as one of the most important milestones along the way towards providing better daily medical care in the health sector. Professional service companies like Rhenus offer support with data management and transferring sensitive patient data to the digital world in order to make available all the benefits of digitalization in the health sector to patients and medical personnel.

Close-up of a stethoscope against a background of a blue doctor's coat.

The aim in Germany is to press ahead with digitalizing the health care sector. The German government is adopting more and more laws to ensure that this is a success story. The Digital Act, for example, was enacted in December 2023 and it seeks to accelerate the process of digitalization in the health sector. By promoting measures such as electronic prescriptions, it aims to help minimize the administrative effort and expenditure at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Digital medical records are also a promising tool to enable the increasing shortage of specialist workers to cope with the high standards required of their original profession again. Mountains of paperwork are then eliminated and they have more time to focus on what is essential: providing medical treatment and care for patients.

But how does it all work?

The journey to the digital health world

E-health applications like digital medical records, telemedicine, health apps, wearables to monitor people’s health and digital information and communications systems have enormous potential to improve health care. By making use of modern technologies and data, they can increase the efficiency and quality of care, extend access to health services, improve patient safety and reduce costs in the health sector.

What electronic prescriptions and digital medical records can achieve

Electronic prescriptions, which have provided tangible momentum for digitalization in the health sector, are one specific example of this. According to the plans of the German government, physicians have been obliged to issue an electronic version of traditional paper prescriptions since 1 January 2024. This makes it possible to prescribe and deliver medications more quickly, reliably and efficiently. Doctors can send digital prescriptions to pharmacies through the electronic prescription service and this simplifies the process for all those involved – and it also prevents mistakes, as it eliminates the risk of reading errors or mistakes caused by handwriting.

Digital medical records are also part of the comprehensive digitalization plans being pursued by the German government. They contain a patient’s complete medical history as the central access point for important information like medical findings, physicians’ letters or medication plans without masses of pieces of paper piling up at doctors’ offices. By pooling information centrally, however, physicians not only quickly obtain an overview of previous sicknesses and operations. Working stages, which were previously handled in analog form, can be directly transferred to the digital world through the digital medical records, errors can be minimized and important documents can be preserved without the risk of losing any information.

The essential prerequisite for making full use of the numerous benefits of these kinds of measures for digitalization in the health sector is having a connection to telematics infrastructure, i.e., the digital network in the health sector.

Telematics infrastructure as the prerequisite for successful digitalization in the health sector

The telematics infrastructure (TI) makes it possible to share health information records like patients’ medical data, diagnoses and medication plans reliably, quickly and in a standardized form. It forms the basis for efficient communications and coordination between the various key players in the health sector like physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and health insurance schemes and is therefore the central prerequisite for digitalization in the health sector. A connection to TI has been mandatory for every doctor’s office in Germany since 2019.

Data privacy is an important aspect of TI. All the data, which is shared using TI, must be encrypted and can only be viewed by authorized persons. This guarantees the safety and protection of patients’ sensitive health information.

It is therefore essential for all the key players to have a reliable and well-functioning basis for all the processes to enable them to complete their work. The delays to the launch of electronic prescriptions in Germany because of a lack of technical requirements demonstrated that this is not so easy to achieve in practice. A whole range of problems can emerge with processes aimed at digitalizing the health sector and it is important to be able to cope with them.

Challenges created by digitalization processes

Technical expertise and resources are essential to set up and maintain the digital infrastructure. This can particularly cause problems for fairly small doctors’ offices and pharmacies

Although the TI offers a high degree of data security, there is always a risk of data leaks or attacks by hackers. It is important for all those involved in the health sector to adopt the necessary measures to protect patients’ data.

​​​​​​Not all those involved in the health sector are prepared or able to cope with the new structures. Integrating these processes within existing workflows therefore represents a major hurdle.

Digital systems must interact with a large number of existing platforms and applications if sensitive data is going to be transferred without any problems. This can present a technical challenge and requires close cooperation between the different providers of health IT.


While all the new information or what is already available in digital form can be brought together in the electronic medical records, any details, which only exist in paper form, are not included, at least in the early stages. This significantly restricts the benefits of digital records.

Why is it still worth pursuing this goal?

It is becoming increasingly important for every provider of health services to cope with these challenges, particularly in the light of the numerous legal requirements that are continuing to promote digitalization in the health sector. While some stipulations are already mandatory, it is worthwhile delving even more deeply into the topics of digitalization and digital medical records in order to make full use of all the benefits. This also includes digitalizing older existing records in order to obtain a more comprehensive picture of all the information.


How to successfully digitalize medical records

Take note of these five issues and obtain the best possible results from switching to digital medical records!

  • Managing availability: If records are available in digital form, it does not matter where the doctors or patients are physically located at any particular time. Digital records guarantee rapid and simple access, significantly increasing the efficiency of patient care.​​​​​​

  • Indexing: Medical records, which are organized systematically, can be examined in a much more purposeful way than enormous numbers of paper documents. Efficient indexing can significantly reduce the time and effort needed to search through the records and can improve working procedures.

  • Safety as the top priority: Safe processes should be the top priority in order to guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive medical information. By using modern encryption technologies, access checks and security protocols, digital medical records are protected from any unauthorized access, theft or manipulation.

  • Complying with legal retention periods: According to the statutory requirements and stipulations, medical documents still have to be kept for a long time after they were issued – in Germany that is 30 years. Complying with these retention periods is much more efficient and space-saving in the long run when moved into the boundless digital world.
  • Destruction: Regardless of whether physical records have already been digitalized or their statutory retention period has expired, the information that they contain still has to be treated in an absolutely confidential manner. Using proper destruction processes that conform to current data privacy stipulations, sensitive data is permanently deleted so that it cannot be retrieved in order to protect health data from abuse and infringements of data privacy regulations.

How Rhenus Docs to Data supports the process of digitalization in the health sector

In order to meet the wide range of challenges when switching to digital medical records, it is helpful to look for support from specialist digitalization providers. Rhenus Docs to Data supports customers in every sector as a services provider to professionally handle digitalization projects. The company focuses particularly on the health sector thanks to having experts with many years of experience in this field. By providing all-round services in the e-health context, Rhenus Docs to Data has already completed many varied digitalization projects in the health sector and it offers extensive solutions for digitalization in the health sector, ranging from digitalization to archiving and even destroying existing records.

File transporter unloads large quantities of old physical files for disposal

Conclusion: From digital solutions to improved care

Numerous benefits emerge if the switch from the physical to digital management of medical records is successful. By making use of experts with many years of experience like those at Rhenus, corporations can ensure that their medical records are efficiently managed and preserved and, in the end, all those involved benefit from the advances provided by digitalization in the health sector. This not only makes it easier to comply with statutory regulations, but also create genuine value added for the everyday work at doctors’ offices, hospitals or pharmacies – and this benefits both patients and those employed by health services providers too:  

  • Data is available in a space-saving form, regardless of people’s geographical location
  • Reliable preservation of records
  • Simplified access to centrally collated information
  • Prevents data privacy infringements
  • Compliance with retention periods

What sounds like a whole host of abstract benefits for the best possible working processes at corporations offers opportunities for providing all-round reliability in the health system. By stimulating administrative efficiency and making the best possible use of modern technologies, measures like digital medical records or electronic prescriptions create improvements in a field where machines are unable to replace interpersonal contact so easily: when caring for and providing medical treatment for patients.

Are you looking for a partner that can harness all the benefits of digital medical records for you?

The important step of providing effective digitalization in the health sector will be a success story with Rhenus Docs to Data!

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