Ms. Berghaus, you work as a product manager at Telekom Healthcare Solutions, a German IT company. In the past, you worked as a nurse in your native England and in Germany. How did this shift come about?
I finished my training as a nurse and healthcare worker in Bristol in 1989. Once the training was over, I studied German and Italian and, immediately after that, completed a management trainee program with the National Health Service, the NHS, in the UK. While I was working as a project manager at Caspe Research in London, I took a few years of parental leave. Because of my husband's work, we moved internationally quite often over the years. We finally settled in Germany in 2003, and I started work here once again as a nurse in intensive care. It felt like I'd landed on Mars.
In the United Kingdom, it's common practice in nursing to take on tasks that, in Germany, are reserved for doctors. Qualified caregivers with the right training can, for example, intubate or extubate patients or treat injuries in the emergency room themselves. Nursing enjoys high recognition as an independent field with specialized knowledge and is supported by the Nursing and Midwifery Council as an independent profession. I worked for three and a half years in an intensive care unit here in Germany and I appreciate very much the experience I gained in that time. In 2007 I was offered a job with a provider of hospital information systems and I accepted it, just out of curiosity. I then worked in IT in the hospital and moved to Telekom in 2019.
The corona crisis has brought deficits in the health care system in Germany to public attention, for example the situation that nursing staff face in hospitals. Are the people who work in these professions better appreciated now?
That is actually one positive thing to come out of the corona crisis: it has put our healthcare system to the test and revealed its flaws. It is important and right to demand better working conditions, such as more staff and better salaries. In my work as product manager at Telekom Healthcare Solutions, I see digitalization making an important contribution. For the first time, it makes the work done by the nursing staff at the bedside truly visible to doctors, physiotherapists and hospital pharmacists – and shows how indispensable this work is to their own duties.
Can you give us an example of how digitalization helps patients, doctors and nursing staff?
The digital patient chart in one. It gives users a synopsis of the clinical documentation in its entirety. The digital patient chart is the cornerstone of all clinical occupational groups. In less than 30 seconds, doctors and nurses can assess the condition of the patient and make decisions about their course of treatment.
What exactly do you do at Telekom Healthcare Solutions?
As product manager, I'm responsible for modules such as care planning and the patient chart in iMedOne, our hospital information system (HIS for short). This means that I work closely with our users in customer reference groups. iMedOne is a digital heart for the hospitals and other medical facilities, and incorporates all processes from the patient record to billing. As product manager, I am right there with our customers. I know what they want and I prioritize them in our planning. I have the advantage of the practical, personal experience I've gained in both English and German hospitals. I know the concerns and needs. And I also know how important it is to interact regularly and closely with our users. We are taking an extremely agile approach, gathering user feedback even during the development phase of new products, which also leads to strategic decisions for our future product development.
Is it absolutely necessary to have worked on the customer side to be a product manager?
It helps enormously, of course, to understand the healthcare system, the users, and their processes and requirements. But it’s not mandatory, and there are two reasons for that: first, at Telekom Healthcare Solutions, we constantly seek out an exchange of ideas with our users, and we are thus able to see at first-hand what we can improve in our products and solutions. This is part of the philosophy of our area, and this interaction benefits all of our colleagues, regardless of whether they have worked in the medical sector or not. And second, there is the technical side of product management. We work together as a team, and we all have our individual strengths.