A key success factor for digital platforms lies in the benefits they generate both for participating providers and consumers. Working jointly with the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) and the Bittner & Thranberend concept agency, we have developed a benefit model for the national health platform that provides advantages to all participating stakeholders.
Digital platforms can give providers of goods and services access to a large customer base, while customers in turn can find a broad selection of offers and services there (see Ecosystem design: benefits-for-all). Consequently, the task of a national health platform would be to serve as an intermediary between providers and potential users of health-related information and services.
But why should information and software providers subject themselves to the rules and quality requirements of such a platform? What factors would motivate established stakeholders in the healthcare system to actively participate in such an ecosystem? And why should patients choose to use a health platform in the first place?
The answer is simple: Everyone involved should gain real, measurable advantages. The starting point for any discussion of the national health platform must be its core objective: making the exchange of health information and meaningful digital services smoother through a platform approach, and bundle quality-assured offerings (see Discover more, search less). The challenge of benefit modeling is then to generate the greatest possible benefit for as many actors as possible, while avoiding or compensating disadvantages for third parties.
Stakeholder analysis and benefit modeling
For the benefit model outlined here, workshop groups formulated specific use cases from the patient’s point of view, and analyzed the associated information and support needs. These case studies were then used to identify groups of supplier-side stakeholders that, in conjunction with users, will also be important for the platform’s success. These stakeholders include providers of health information and digital services, for example. In addition, traditional stakeholders in the healthcare and education sectors, municipalities, and many other entities could also play a part in the digital ecosystem, all contributing to a rich and high-quality information offering.
An stakeholder analysis was used to identify and classify the interests, needs and potential concerns of the identified groups. With the aim of developing the most balanced benefit model possible, relationships and interactions among these stakeholders were also taken into account. To this end, publications and press reports were evaluated and background discussions and interviews with representatives of the relevant institutions were conducted. Based on these analyses and additional expert assessments, the team then formulated potential benefits for each individual group and compiled these in a preliminary benefits catalog.
The benefit model
Ideally, the digital ecosystem and national health platform would be capable of generating multifaceted benefits for all stakeholders, although these would likely vary from stakeholder to stakeholder. Nevertheless, overarching value-adds can be identified that would benefit all stakeholders involved, and which derive from the triangular relationship formed by the providers, the users and the platform operator.
Traditional healthcare-system actors do not think or act like multinational platform operators, as they perform completely different roles and tasks. Presumably, none of these players would alone be able to establish an offering likely to survive in the new meta-platform marketplace. The digital ecosystem would provide them with the strategic option of positioning themselves collaboratively in the new healthcare platform market using an existing technical infrastructure.
Thanks to the size of the community and the large number of interfaces with other platforms, the ecosystem could also generate a unique corpus of data extending beyond the private personal patient data. Participating entities could use this data for various purposes, for instance for the further development of their own (information) services, for healthcare research or to help guide therapeutic activities. The interplay of data from many different sources would offer a particularly interesting opportunity to generate new knowledge and to use it for a demand-driven further development of our health system.
The process-based information paths (see Discover more, search less), the high degree of personalization and the direct links to the various healthcare system entities would give rise to a new information and communication architecture that would create structure and help orient users. This in turn would provide healthcare professionals with significant benefits, as the platform would offer an opportunity to optimize information and communication management, while increasing the quality and efficiency of information handling. In addition, it is possible to link the care process with digital information and support services in a targeted manner.
With the explosion of digitally available health information, patients are experiencing increasing difficulties in finding the information they need. The metaphor of the needle in the haystack aptly describes the average information seeker’s morass of detours and wrong turns. With its market-based and inclusive brokering approach (see The state as a provider of information), the national health platform has the potential to become the hub of the healthcare system’s information architecture, bringing together all key offerings in one place. This approach is inspired by the “one-stop shop” idea, which adds considerable value by helping users find their way through the maze of digital information and service offerings.
Numerous studies have shown that in this era of disinformation and conspiracy theories, people are finding it increasingly difficult to assess the truth of information or the credibility of sources. The concept for the national health platform thus includes strict access rules for providers which would act as a kind of filter. Providers would be required to obtain an audit-based certification at regular intervals to prove that they met certain quality standards (see InfoQ: Making quality visible). This would keep questionable providers out of the ecosystem. This quality-based selection of providers represents a key benefit for patients, and creates the basis for a priceless asset: trust.
One useful strategy in dealing with the daily flood of information is to filter it, focusing attention on what is most essential. “Essential” information can be described as that which is relevant to a person’s individual context and meets their situational information needs. With the help of algorithmic systems, content and service offers on the national health platform can be personalised and context sensitive. The resulting individually tailored selection and presentation of information and digital services would be of significant help to patients, saving them time and relieving them of cognitive burdens.
Alongside these more generic advantages, many other benefits can be identified both for individuals and groups of actors. For example, well-informed patients take more responsibility for their own health, adhere more closely to treatment plans, are able to navigate the healthcare system more confidently, and make healthier choices in everyday life. Health care researchers could benefit from new insights and options of analysis. Information providers and other services would have the opportunity to distinguish themselves through their presence on the platform with high-quality offerings, while additionally targeting their outreach efforts more efficiently and lowering transaction costs.
Another aspect of benefit modeling is ensuring that stakeholders do not suffer any disadvantages due to their participation in the ecosystem. Our concept for a national health platform therefore envisages that the platform operator will not offer any information or health services of its own, restricting itself strictly to the role of intermediary. The platform must not undermine the offerings provided by participating companies and organizations, or have any negative influence on their user traffic figures. Thus, as a rule, information and services would not be offered on the platform itself. Instead, users would visit the providers’ external sites (see Discover more, search less). The relationship between the platform operator and the providers should be based on clear access criteria and principles of fairness and transparency, thus creating a network of benefits and added value for all participating stakeholders.