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Swiss Biotech Day’s panel discussion on digitalisation of Swiss healthcare

digitalswitzerland hosted a panel at the Swiss Biotech Day on digitalisation in the Swiss healthcare system, moderated by Jade Sternberg, Digital Health Lead at digitalswitzerland. We discussed the opportunities and benefits of data collection with four key leaders in the ecosystem: Chantal Stäuble from Netcetera, Dr. Sebastiano Caprara from Balgrist hospital, Dr. René P. Buholzer from Interpharma and Steven Bourke from PersonalPulse.

The panel discussion shows that the digital transformation in healthcare is a journey where all stakeholders need to work together with a sense of urgency in order to successfully create a patient-centric and value based healthcare system. It is only by collecting data from all citizens that we will be able to build a solid data basis to do better diagnostics and design better treatments to increase the quality of care. Here are a few takeaways of the interesting exchange.

Citizens are willing to share their data digitally

Based on our survey findings in the Digital Health Study, we can clearly see that the citizens are willing to use a digital healthcare system given it has clear added values. 

According to the panellists, digitalisation would be very valuable if:

The patient’s role is changing

The term “patient” has evolved through the years. Nowadays, the word patient is used to define different personas which could be replaced by “client”, “consumer”, “user” and “customer” of the healthcare system. In the survey, 31% of the population believes that everyone is a patient, healthy or sick. According to Steven Bourke, the change of the role of the patient is key for the future of healthcare. Previously,  becoming a patient was not something that you proactively look for, it was something that you became after you received a clinical diagnosis. In the future, let’s move from a business of disease to a business of healthcare. 

Consent and privacy will increase data collection in research

Dr. Sebastiano Caprara explained that when setting up a research project, a clear description is required for how a patient’s data will be collected, used and managed after the completion of the project. It is only with this that a project will be accepted by the ethical committee of the canton of Zurich.  

There is a clear process in place when a patient or subject arrives at a clinic: informed consent needs to be given as well as a clear explanation of how the data will be used. Once collected, the data will be de-identified before being shared with researchers according to the Swiss Personalised Healthcare Network. The data can only be tracked back to the patient in the clinic to allow for the data to be erased if the patient wishes to retract their consent in the future. 

The panellists: Steven Bourke, Dr. René Buholzer, Jade Sternberg, Dr. Sebastiano Caprara, Chantal Stäuble (f.l.t.r.)

Limited data pools, a risk for the attractiveness of Switzerland?

Dr. René P. Buholzer: “The next wave of innovation and R&D in drug development will be driven by data.” Pharmaceutical is a global industry and therefore pharmaceutical companies will move wherever the talent is. Switzerland is still a R&D leader in Europe – but we need to speed up our health data collection. Otherwise, Switzerland will lose its status as an attractive location. 

Develop trustworthy technologies

Chantal Stäuble: “Technology should serve humans.” According to her, one of the key elements is privacy by design, designing the concept of a device around identity (self-sovereignty). This key factor is also reflected in our survey; citizens want to be the owners of their data and have a say into who can access their data.

Regularly collecting data digitally is important

Proactivity will enable us to have a really solid data basis which can be used to further research and develop new personalised treatment, moving from a fee for service to a fee for outcome model. 

We need to collect the data collectively in a systematic way, following common standards in order to be able to work together and create value. 

Collecting data to monitor your health from home

Decentralised solutions are picking up speed: nowadays, treatments are more and more brought to the people’s homes. According to Steven Bourke, the value proposition of the treatments needs to be reconsidered, it needs to bring value to the citizens in order for them to be comfortable with the change. The citizen’s role needs to transition from a tool tester to a co-creator; they need to play an active role and understand “what is in it for me” on a personal level and on a society level. Mutual value needs to be brought to the patient and the healthcare practitioners, bringing the data in a way that motivates them to look at it. This change of mindset will really enable us to bring the digital therapeutics to the homes of Swiss citizens.

The pandemic has opened up opportunities to further digitalise the Swiss healthcare sector

The pandemic had multiple positive outcomes on digitalisation of healthcare:

Wishes to enable collaboration between healthcare players to ensure Switzerland is a flourishing location for Biotech, Medtech and Pharma

Chantal Stäuble: “We need a grass-rooting movement.” We need to stand and work together, creating public-private partnerships including the patients, the citizens. We need to get the mutual value from the data, value on a patient level, on a physician level, on a research level.  

In the future, ideally the health data will be shared between generations for people to be able to build on it; this will have a huge impact on the society. 

The healthcare system in Switzerland is based on solidarity. Solidarity will only happen when the system is trusted; a system with a common infrastructure and right governance. The different existing infrastructures need to be brought together quickly to ensure they are well connected and not fragmented. Data should be interoperable to ensure the infrastructure we build is a central store for all to profit from. We need to be inspired by other countries like the Nordics. 

Change needs to happen

Switzerland has created a system of silos allowing disconnection between cantons. We need common standards as a nation. These silos are present at the federal level as well as between the different professions. The reimbursement system in Switzerland does not help as people only get reimbursed for the services they provide, not for collaborating with one another. 

In Switzerland, we need to change the mindset of the population, we need to spend more time on empowering the citizens around their health, around digitalisation. We need to show them what value they get out of it, what is in it for me as a person, as an individual, as a society. This is a change which is happening slowly. 

As outlined by a person in the audience, “Let’s have a TWINT moment in healthcare”.

More information on the panellists:

Chantal and Sebastiano are both members of our Digital Health Steering Committee at digitalswitzerland.

The increasing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) requires a careful analysis of the current legal framework in Switzerland. With the postulate “Legal situation AI – clarify uncertainties, promote innovation”, Marcel Dobler, FDP National Councillor and Vice-President of digitalswitzerland, calls on the Federal Council to examine whether the current legal system and its principles do justice to developments in the field of new technologies and to identify uncertainties.

Building on this analysis, the federal council shall examine whether a strategy based on an opportunity-risk analysis needs to be devised by a group of experts from business, science and NGOs. If necessary, a concept on the need for legislative action should be developed, in which priorities, timetable and resources are defined.

Switzerland has already taken important steps to recognise and respond to the importance of AI. These include the Confederation’s guidelines on AI, the Digital Switzerland Strategy, the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Artificial Intelligence (IDAG AI), the Federal Statistical Office’ Competence Network on Artificial Intelligence (CNAI), as well as the engagement in the Council of Europe’s Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI) for binding guidelines within the members of the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, Switzerland has so far refrained from passing its own AI law and has remained true to the approach of “as much as necessary, as little as possible” as well as technology-neutral formulations of the laws. However, Braun Binder et al. (2021) show in their article “Künstliche Intelligenz: Handlungsbedarf im Schweizer Recht” (EN: Artificial Intelligence – Need for Action in Swiss Law) that on closer inspection, due to the technology-neutral approach, selective adjustments are needed in Switzerland.

A selective adaptation of laws and ordinances is not far removed from reality. The DLT Act, which was passed by parliament in 2020 and fully enacted by the Federal Council in 2021, shows that a selective adaptation of the laws can bring about a flourishing innovation landscape for promising technologies that are even crucial for Switzerland. The DLT Act has ensured that Switzerland is still a leading global location for blockchain technologies.

Please find the full postulate in German.

After five successful years at digitalswitzerland, Deputy Managing Director Diana Engetschwiler has decided to pursue a new and exciting career opportunity. Over the past years, she successfully developed Swiss Digital Days into a Swiss-wide and international initiative that now involves over 130 partners from science, politics, and economy. She played a vital role in creating further flagships for digitalswitzerland, such as launching the largest female-led hackathon in Switzerland #herHACK and the largest public TV programme on digitalisation during the difficult COVID-19 times. As a member of the management team she has built up two high-performing teams and successfully implemented the B2C strategy.

Diana Engetschwiler

She is therefore stepping down from her role as Deputy Managing Director and B2C lead by the end of December. She will remain a part-time senior advisor offering her rich knowledge in all areas of the organisation. We will greatly miss Diana and wish her the very best for her next professional chapter. We would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank her for her tireless efforts. A succession search has been initiated, which is being conducted by the Nomination Committee.

The world’s largest tech showcase, GITEX Global, took place again from 10 to 14 October. This year, the world’s largest tech fair attracted over 4,500 companies and 100,000 attendees, ranging from visitors and entrepreneurs to scientists, state officials and more. A Swiss delegation of 20 C-level executives participated at GITEX Global to represent the innovative capacity and technological expertise of our country as well as to strengthen international bonds.

The Swiss Delegation of 20 C-level executives to GITEX Global in Dubai was warmly welcomed by Stefan Metzger, Managing Director digitalswitzerland and Andreas Kaelin, Senior Advisor digitalswitzerland. Together they laid out the economic relationships between Switzerland and the Arabian Gulf, which is the 10th largest Swiss export market. As IMD highlighted in the recently published World Digital Competitiveness Index, the UAE continues to knock on the door of the top 10 most digitally competitive nations, excelling at their regulatory and technological frameworks, which both rank 3rd in the 2022 report. The country therefore offers a great opportunity for Switzerland to learn from and improve our technology ranking.

Frank Eggmann, Consul General of Switzerland in Dubai, welcomed the delegation by highlighting how GITEX can catapult Swiss ventures looking to scale up their customer base, develop corporate partnerships, and win investment. GITEX Global is the world’s largest tech show in its biggest year ever, attracting over 4,500 companies and 100,000 participants from across the globe.

Safia Agueni, Chapter Founder of Women in Tech Switzerland, introduced a cohort of senior tech executives from multinational companies representing a range of industries, highlighting the importance of diversity in technology leadership and digital transformation projects. The local chapter of Women in Tech UAE joined the Swisstech SWISS Pavilion and toured the broad range of Swiss spin-off projects, startups, and scaleups.

The Swisstech SWISS Pavilion at GITEX Global 2022 was opened by Massimo Baggi, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Groundbreaking applications in the fields of Metaverse, AI, Web 3.0, Blockchain, 6G, Cloud Computing, FinTech and Big Data are the focus of the action.

Stefan Metzger, Managing Director digitalswitzerland: “GITEX is an excellent opportunity for Swiss companies and especially for startups in the deep tech sector to generate attention, tap into new markets and establish contacts with potential investors. In this way, we support the main goal of the Swisstech initiative: to position Switzerland as an outstanding innovation and technology center and an attractive location for investors and foreign companies.”

Massimo Baggi opens the Swisstech SWISS Pavilion

eGovernment and digital health in the Gulf

One spacious hall in GITEX is a showcase of the latest tech being developed and deployed by national and regional governments. Many of these are based on the fundament of an electronic identity card (eID), where governments have put significant resources into streamlining the process of obtaining an eID and building eGovernment services that enable residents to quickly complete administrative processes online.

Ali Juma AlAjme, Director of Digital Health at the Ministry of Health and Prevention, presented some of the advancements in Electronic Health Records, including giving patients the right to share their health data, creating a unified protocol for digital health companies to use, unified supply chain interfaces, and introducing new guidance for telemedicine later this year. All of this with the aim of enabling faster and more interoperable innovation in digital health that will benefit the patient journey.

Ali Juma AlAjme with digitalswitzerland’s delegation

Innovation across Dubai and the UAE

To complement the extensive spectrum of tech on show at GITEX Global, the Swiss delegation also visited two key sites that demonstrate Dubai’s forward-looking approach to innovation and sustainability.

The Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) is a free zone, home to an independent regulator, judicial system based on the English common law framework, and benefiting from the high labour mobility into the region. DIFC houses an Innovation Hub, where Ralf Glabischnig, Founder of Crypto Oasis, explained the bridge between Switzerland’s Crypto Valley and the Crypto Oasis of over 1,450 organisations making up the fast-growing blockchain ecosystem in the UAE. The Crypto Oasis 2022 report summarises the governments, investors, corporates and startups that operate in the DIFC, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and others.

digitalswitzerland’s delegation in DIFC

Swiss clean tech company Hitachi Zosen Inova is working in an international consortium including Dubal Holding, ITOCHU Corporation, BESIX Group and Tech Group. Under the leadership of Roni Araiji, Managing Director Middle East, they are building the world’s largest energy-from-waste facility, capable of treating 1,825,000 tons of municipal solid waste per year – an impressive 45% of Dubai’s current waste. The 200 MW of electricity generated will be fed into the local grid as baseload energy, in line with Dubai’s Integrated Energy Strategy 2030.

Swisstech @ GITEX Global 2022 hosted the following scaleups, startups, and research institutions:

From 10 to 14 October 2022, more than 4,500 companies and over 100,000 participants from 170 countries will take part in GITEX, the biggest technology convention of the year happening in Dubai. The SWISS Pavilion, organised by digitalswitzerland and T-LINK as part of Swisstech, will attend with 18 organisations and research institutions. This is where developers and pioneers meet to exchange ideas and present new products. Pioneering applications in the fields of Metaverse, AI, Web 3.0, Blockchain, 6G, Cloud Computing, FinTech and Big Data are the focus of the action.

Read the full press release in German and French.

The Federal Council opened the consultation on the proposal for a new e-ID law. digitalswitzerland notes that the proposal for a new e-ID law resonates broadly with our members by setting the framework for a trust infrastructure whose core element is a government-issued e-ID. digitalswitzerland welcomes the strategic direction of the preliminary draft.

However, we are convinced that electronic identity can only become widely accepted in Switzerland if it is embedded in an inclusive ecosystem of electronic credentials. We consider it essential to include this aspect in the purpose article of the law. We also consider the regular audit of state-operated infrastructure, a vehicle for expert input on technological law implementation, fee structure according to international standards, and regulation of private confirmation mechanisms to be useful.

A brief summary of the key proposals:

  1. Equal status for e-ID and e-ID ecosystem.
    Ensure that the e-ID, as the main credential of the ecosystem, thrives in a broad ecosystem that includes the private sector. The law should express this intention more clearly.
  2. Expert input on the technological implementation of the law
    Create an instrument that allows for the involvement of experts from academia and industry in the implementation of the law (e.g. UX, security).
  3. Fee structure according to international standards
    Follow internationally accepted principles for connectivity of SSI networks and make them free of charge for users (e.g. Sovrin Foundation rulebook).
  4. Regulate private confirmation mechanisms
    Ensure that sector-specific trusted third parties or organisations can continue to perform their function in the digital ecosystem (e.g. swissuniversities).
  5. Cybersecurity from the very beginning
    Check the structure of the Fedpol system for issuing E-IDs technically and procedurally for security issues. This should be anchored in the law.

The full statement can be found here in German and French.

Oliver Wyman study “Switzerland’s Digital DNA”

Confidence in the Swiss population’s own digital competence is growing only slowly. More than a fifth of all people still feel unable to keep up with the pace of technological progress. The benefits of digitalisation are nevertheless considered high in all areas of life. The willingness to disclose personal data for digital services is growing – despite an increased awareness of cyber risks. At the same time, satisfaction with digital services varies. This is the result of the sixth edition of the study “Switzerland’s Digital DNA”, which is published jointly by the international strategy consultancy Oliver Wyman and digitalswitzerland as part of Swiss Digital Days 2022.

Selected highlights:

Find an infographic with further key findings here in German.

Read the full press release in German, French and Italian.

The IMD Institute for Management Development in Lausanne published its world rankings on “Digital Competitiveness” today. The results for Switzerland were explained in more detail at the Digital Competitiveness Summit 2022 being held by digitalswitzerland, IMD and EPFL on the IMD campus in Lausanne. Switzerland climbs to 5th place out of 63 countries surveyed (2021: 6th place). It already occupied this position in 2019, before the pandemic affected the economies as a whole.

Switzerland makes progress
Switzerland’s rise in the rankings is due to its good performance in the factor “knowledge”, which the World Competitiveness Center defines as “the necessary know-how to discover, understand and develop new technologies”. This factor is one of a total of three main categories according to which the researchers rank the results of the studies. The other two factors are future readiness and technology.

Nevertheless, the ranking makes it clear that Switzerland’s digital skills are in need of improvement: The availability of digital skills is less positively assessed by managers today than it was a year ago; this criterion has dropped to 18th place (from 11th). The scores for university graduates in the natural sciences (26th place), women with university degrees (30th place), the number of female researchers (31st place) and R&D productivity measured by the number of publications (35th place) also remain relatively low – despite improvements in most of these areas.

Overall, the findings shed light on the factors that make it easier for governments and the private sector to improve their capabilities to protect digital infrastructure from cyberattacks, the experts say. They also show how this promotes the adoption and diffusion of digital technologies.

Read the full press release in German and French.

See Switzerland’s results here.

By 2030, there will be a shortage of 38,700 ICT specialists in Switzerland, as the latest study by ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz shows. This is despite increased efforts to promote young talent. As the largest contributor, vocational education and training (VET) is the key to meeting the demand for skilled workers. This is because 79 percent of all ICT degrees originate in VET. In order to meet the growing demand for ICT specialists, the apprenticeship quota must be increased from 5.9 to 8.1 percent.

In their study, ICT-Berufsbildung Schweiz explains why the ICT skills shortage has implications not only for the ICT sector but for the Swiss economy as a whole and what we can expect for the future. Further, the organisation proposes additional measures to solve this pressing issue.

Read the full study here in German.

The forecasts for the demand of skilled workers in previous years were always too conservative: Switzerland’s ICT sector is growing faster than expected. However, Switzerland is losing ground to other nations.

The study “Opportunity costs of the ICT skills shortage” published by digitalswitzerland shows: The weaker growth of the Swiss ICT sector compared to surrounding countries will make Switzerland less and less attractive for foreign skilled workers, which can have serious consequences over time. The study reveals what these consequences are and what actions economy, politics and education could take.

The study was created by IWSB Institute for Economic Studie Basel on behalf of digitalswitzerland.

Read the full study here in German.