Bitkom response to the opinion by the German Ethics Council “Big Data and Health”

4 December 2017

Bitkom President Achim Berg talks about the opinion published on 30 November 2017 by the German Ethics Council entitled “Big Data and Health – Data Sovereignty as Informational Pastime”:

“We are delighted that the Ethics Council has recognised the potential of Big Data applications. In order to prevent disease, make accurate diagnoses and reach therapy decisions, physicians must rely on information. This has always been the case. Today, more and more researchers, companies and doctors in the health industry are using information extracted from Big Data. Accordingly, doctors can make assessments and reach decisions with even greater confidence on the basis of genome data or smart watches. For example, impending strokes or heart attacks can be prevented more effectively when the first signs appear. Diseases such as cancer can be treated more successfully, less radically than before, thanks to data from the patients affected and the abundant store of data gained from other patients. The key to all this is Big Data. Medical data can prolong life and save lives. We must change course, away from homogeneous, off the shelf therapy, and towards individual medicine. At the same time, the protection of highly sensitive health information is a fundamental element in any advance towards effective, comprehensive and affordable healthcare. Germany occupies a leading position in medical research and technology. In order to maintain our prominence in the digital age, we must grasp the opportunities offered by Big Data wholeheartedly. In order to be able to do this, the necessary precondition is the systematic, prudent use of data together with the best possible protection for the private domain.”

The people of Germany are receptive to the idea of Big Data in medicine. Accordingly, a 75% majority would be prepared to make their own health data available to research, possibly to contribute to long-term research into a disease or to help other patients in the short term. Doctors in particular enjoy a high level of implicit trust: 55 percent would have no apprehensions about entrusting their health information to doctors.