Digitalization plays an increasingly important role for Fresenius – whether in healthcare facilities, in direct contact with patients, or in production. It is a driving force behind the implementation of innovative technologies and treatment concepts and can help us to find solutions to many challenges in the healthcare sector and help unlock trapped value. For us, the focus is on the opportunities offered by digital solutions. Through innovative, safe, and user-friendly products and systems, we can further improve the quality and efficiency of treatments.
Below, we explain our overarching approach to digital transformation and innovation. Furthermore, we address the following topics in this regard:
- Digitalization and innovation in the business segments
- Clinical research and innovative treatment management
- Our ambitions
Our markets are changing rapidly. This is particularly true with regard to digital trends in healthcare, which have been further accelerated by COVID-19. We are seeing increasing demand from patients, health insurance companies, and healthcare institutions for new digital services along the entire value chain. Patients want remote treatment and on-demand healthcare services. Data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly important, for example in predictive maintenance of dialysisDialysisForm ​of ​renal ​replacement ​therapy ​where ​a ​semipermeable ​membrane ​– ​in ​peritoneal ​dialysis ​the ​peritoneum ​of ​the ​patient, ​in ​hemo ​dialysis ​the ​membrane ​of ​the ​dialyzer ​– ​is ​used ​to ​clean ​a ​patient’s ​blood. machines and analysis of patient data. At the same time, cybersecurity risks have made us aware of the need for standardized and resilient IT infrastructures.
In order to drive digitalization and innovation at Fresenius and at the same time take into account the specific market situations, we take different approaches in the business segments – from independent Research and Development (R & D) strategies to active innovation management, as described in the Group Management Report in the Research and development chapter. We also involve external partners such as research institutions and start-up companies in this work. One of our priorities is developing innovative products that not only meet stringent quality requirements, but also affordability criteria. In doing so, we are responding to the growing demand worldwide for high-quality yet cost-effective products and outcome-based services.
Many of our stakeholders, especially our patients and our employees, are directly affected by the changes resulting from the advance of digitalization. Our R & D activities are closely linked to digitalization and are an integral part of our growth strategy. Our aim here is to improve products and processes as well as to develop innovative therapies and integrated healthcare services. However, we do not conduct fundamental research.
Our products and therapies are designed to help promote human health. Benefits and risks must be carefully evaluated. Whether it is in clinical approval studies or in clinical research projects, the Fresenius Group wants to create opportunities to improve the quality of treatment, especially in the area of critical illnesses and chronic diseases.
All new or improved products and services are subject to internal quality requirements as well as external regulations and regulatory requirements. In the case of digital developments, we pay particular attention to the requirements of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR); for more information see the Data protection section. We also observe European directives such as the EU Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) in the medical technology sector. We address possible risks such as hacker attacks on sensitive data and systems, by implementing comprehensive cybersecurity concepts, as described in the Cybersecurity chapter.
Organization and responsibilities
Within the Fresenius Group Management Board, the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the business segments are responsible for operational management. Responsibility for digital transformation and innovation and the management approaches lies with the respective Management Boards, committees or management function, e. g., via a business allocation plan. The business allocation plan of the Fresenius Group Management Board does not provide for a separate department for this purpose.
The global IT Board brings together executives from Fresenius Medical Care, Fresenius Kabi, Fresenius Helios, and Fresenius Digital Technology. Together, they align IT and digital requirements with corporate goals and develop strategies for the future.
The global IT transformation is steered by the Group division Fresenius Digital Technology and the Chief Information Officer of the Fresenius Group. As part of risk reporting, the Fresenius Group Management Board is informed quarterly about the effectiveness of the respective management systems, i.e. about risks or incidents that could have a significant impact on the operating business, the reputation or the value chain of the Group and its business segments. The Audit Committee of the Supervisory Board is also informed of these developments on a quarterly basis, the Supervisory Board on an annual basis. For further information, please refer to the Risk Report. We further report on Cybersecurity governance in the Cybersecurity chapter and on data protection governance in the Data protection section.
Group-wide IT transformation
In 2021, Fresenius began implementing a new, Group-wide IT program to strengthen cooperation in the IT area and increase value creation in the Group. All organizations of the Fresenius Group have participated in the development of the program and are accompanying the transformation process in the global IT Board.
We want to further develop our IT in such a way that it supports existing business models and enables the development of new ones. Our vision is to digitally transform Fresenius for improved patient care and a successful future for our Group.
The first step in the transformation process was the restructuring of the responsibilities of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA, the business segment Fresenius Kabi, and the Group’s own IT service provider Fresenius Digital Technology in 2021. Fresenius Kabi now handles, for example, company-specific applications and IT services for production, while Fresenius Digital Technology is responsible for all cross-segment services.
The successful restructuring set the foundation for further transformation to drive innovation and business value. One core activity is to implement and leverage state-of-the-art platforms and tools at scale, i. e., Cloud Computing. Hereby, Fresenius Digital Technology is collaborating with a strategic partner since 2022 to drive the technological change quickly.