Germany: How digital is medical education?

Practice-oriented digitisation approaches can already be found in many areas of medicine. But does digitisation play a role in medical education? Survey results show: There is still a lot of catching up to do.

Digitisation in medicine: not all options are used

Whether health apps, electronic patient files or digital health applications - practice-oriented digitisation approaches can already be found in many areas of medicine. But does digitisation also play a role in medical education? Survey results on from various surveys show: There is still a lot of catching up to do.

Digitisation is playing an increasingly important role in various areas of medicine (not only since the COVID-19 pandemic). At least from the patient perspective, there is a high interest in digital medical care. According to a survey, 60% of patients, for example, can imagine communicating digitally with their physicians, including 56% via video chat. The medical profession in Germany, on the other hand, seems to have a mixed attitude towards telemedicine: 73% of hospital physicians and 44% of general practitioners who do not yet offer online consultations said that it would be conceivable to introduce them. On the other hand, 16% of the clinic physicians and even 36% of the general practitioners stated in the survey that the introduction of online consultations would be inconceivable for them.

Nevertheless: Regarding the use of digital technologies, 77% of the surveyed medical professionals and physicians stated that they use the electronic health record, 52% use the duty roster and 44% use apps for physicians. Additionally, according to, 41% of primary care physicians reported working extensively with digital approaches since COVID-19.

Medical studies and digitisation: still a lot of catching up to do

But what about digitisation in medical education? A survey among medical students shows: There is still a lot to do here. According to the respondents, digital approaches play a rather subordinate role in current medical training. Digital aspects tend to appear as marginal notes in lectures. Holistic education? Missing, as the interviewees report. Despite current faculty reform processes, neither the National Competence-Based Learning Objectives Catalogue (Nationaler Kompetenzbasierter Lernzielkatalog) adopted in 2015 nor the Master Plan for Medical Studies 2020 include aspects of the digital transformation. Nor has digitisation yet found its way into a formal curriculum for further medical education and training.

However, this does not seem to be due to a lack of interest in digital processes during medical training. A qualitative survey of medical students by the Charité Berlin cited on shows: 8 out of 10 respondents strongly agree and two respondents agree that digital health should be part of the compulsory curriculum at medical schools. Similarly, 8 respondents strongly agree and two respondents agree that digital health should be taught early in the professional life. On the topic of digitisation in medicine, 5 out of 10 respondents also strongly agreed and the remaining 5 respondents agreed that for graduates in human medicine, competences are more relevant than pure knowledge.

Digital methods in studies and training: available, but scarce

Digital competences and further training in the field of medicine are thus still primarily dependent on the self-interest and responsibility of medical professionals. They can, for example, acquire knowledge through scholarship programmes or webinars - however, there is not always a corresponding interest in or awareness of digitisation in medicine. But there are already attempts on the part of universities to close educational gaps in the digitisation of medicine. The "magic word" is: Curriculum 4.0. The goals of this funding programme are to promote a digital reorientation and further development of study programmes and to identify new approaches to solutions through curricular reform projects. The digital further education of medical students is clearly in focus. Among other things, the following aspects are to be taught in Curriculum 4.0:

One problem with Curriculum 4.0: The model has only existed actively as a further education option for a few years - and only at some universities. So there is only room for a limited number of participants. Thus, a lot of personal responsibility and interest in digital offerings in medicine still rests with students and physicians themselves. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by digitisation, it is necessary to create an adequate educational policy framework, functional and accepted technologies, high-quality data and adapted education, training and further education.

The Digital Doctor - what role does digitisation play in medical education? (Original title in German: Der Digitale Arzt – welche Rolle spielt Digitalisierung in der medizinischen Ausbildung?)