E-Health and Shared Decision Allocation

Improving both the allocation of medical resources and the ability of patients to share in decision-making processes are the two focus areas of the new junior professorship with the official title “E-Health and Shared Decision Allocation” at the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) and the medical faculty Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. 

The chair is occupied by Professor Dr. Dr. Felix Balzer. Born in Hamburg, Balzer initially studied medicine in Rostock and Freiburg. In the course of his studies he went on to spend a year in Paris and at Cornell University in New York. “As I had always been interested in information science, I chose to write my doctoral thesis in Freiburg in the field of health informatics. Parallel to this, I began to study information science at the distance-education institution FernUniversität in Hagen,” says Professor Balzer, who specialized in anesthesiology for his post-doctoral thesis and during his residency at Charité, where he also dedicated part of his working time to medical data management. “In order to conduct scientific research in information science, too, I wrote a doctoral thesis in information science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, while continuing my medical specialist training during the residency.” In doing so, Balzer was involved in the development of a faculty-internal platform for courses and learning objectives that depicts the contents of the different courses of study at Charité; he also investigated the impact of this platform on different user groups (predominantly students, teachers and curriculum developers) as part of his doctoral thesis. He placed a further focus on algorithms for the computer-aided allocation of courses.

“Now I am looking forward to this new challenge as junior professor at the ECDF, where I will be concentrating on research and teaching,” says 37-year-old Balzer.

In his research, Professor Balzer focuses mainly on the issue of patient safety at the interface between the intensive-care unit and perioperative – that is, in the context of a surgical intervention – care. On the one hand, the goal is to identify new indicators within the hospital’s routine data that could influence the further treatment and recovery of patients. “In the future, intelligent apps will provide patients with more and more data about their personal health status, such as blood pressure readings. For the attending physicians it is important to have this data constantly available, both prior to and during an operation, in order to combine it with the routine data and to factor both into the treatment. In addition to technological issues in this context, essential questions also arise in the field of data protection and the patients’ right to self-determination,” Professor Balzer explains. “In terms of ‘Shared Decision Allocation’ – according to which the responsibility for decision-making is shared – patients will be given the opportunity to play a far greater role in making decisions.”

A further research goal can be summarized in the keyword “interoperability”. It describes the approach according to which independently collected data – be it by the patients themselves or by different hospital units –is recorded and pooled in a joint system, if possible without temporal delay.

The third research goal pertains to quality indicators. “At present, we assess retrospectively whether a treatment has been carried out in compliance with the quality indicators prescribed by the professional medical associations. The goal must be to have the quality indicators control and govern the treatment, thereby enabling an assessment in real time and the prompt taking of counter-measures in the case of deficits.

“With regard to teaching, my goal is to advance students’ education in the field of medical informatics, thereby contributing to the further consolidation of expertise from both information science and medicine. With its interdisciplinary approach, the ECDF provides ideal conditions to do this,” says Professor Balzer. (kj)