Cross-cluster strategy benefiting healthcare sector
The trajectory of the healthcare sector remains uncertain amid the corona crisis unlike that of the 2008/2009 financial crisis during which the sector proved quite crisis-proof. Fast-forward to 2020 and this year, certain healthcare fields are coping better with the pandemic after the launch of separate programmes, for instance, the COVID-19 Hospital Relief Act in March 2020. That is now cushioning the economic impact on hospitals, contract doctors and other healthcare firms. Companies specialising in ventilators, laboratory or hygiene products grew sales amid corona while others suffered losses. Jan Quast, Managing Director of Gesundheitswirtschaft Hamburg GmbH (GWHH), pointed out: "We do not have a uniform picture of the economic situation against the backdrop of corona, but large parts of the healthcare sector certainly stand a chance of weathering the crisis better thanks to state subsidies and statutory health insurance funds."
The GWHH's cross-cluster strategy combines the potential of the healthcare sector with other industries and is proving successful in the corona era. "The strong cohesion between the economic clusters has easily led to the swift realisation of concrete, cross-cluster offers for companies during the pandemic," said Quast. Apart from collaborations with the life science cluster, the vibrant contact with the aviation sector is another example. "Preventing infections is a major issue here and is crucial to reviving the tourist industry," he added. Thus, the virtual cross-cluster workshop "Aviation meets Healthcare Industry" in late July focused on new approaches to operating flights and preventing infections. One bright idea presented during the workshop was a mobile phone-based analysis to indicate respiratory diseases.
COVID-19 idea platform
The GWHH’s COVID-19 ideas platform and the eHealth Network Hamburg are now paving the way for innovative ideas. Stakeholders in the healthcare sector can exchange ideas, approaches and solutions or find co-operating partners there. The Darvis start-up has presented its concept for digital hygiene inspections in hospitals on the platform while the founders of Uventions presented their innovative, UV-based means of disinfection. "More than 100 interested parties have already registered on the platform," said a delighted Quast. The free "Meet the Expert", launched in 2019 as a monthly consultation for people keen on setting up their own start-up, is now held under the motto "Call the Expert". He added: "We are happy to continue the offer by telephone, similar to events like eHealth Day that we now offering digitally, but which remain emergency solutions."
Corona boosting digitalisation
However, digitalisation cannot replace face-to-face events, Quast stressed, and noted: "When founders meet established entrepreneurs at events, for instance, promising opportunities for co-operation sometimes arise almost incidentally." Commenting on the digitalisation push triggered by corona, he noted: "Many approaches have proven viable over the past few months," and cited the "Active and Healthy Quarters Uhlenhorst and Rübenkamp (AGQua)", funded by the EU and Hamburg, as an example. The project focuses on conditions that allow people to live independently and for as long as possible in their own districts. Emphasis is on age-appropriate furnishing of flats, advice on health and fitness and the My Neighbours app, which launched in June 2019. Originally designed as a provider of information on events and offers in the district and to simply link up neighbours with each other, the app is proving a vital tool for older people in the ongoing pandemic. Senior citizens are no longer isolated and can remain in contact with others, especially when in quarantine, and can request a neighbour's help with shopping among others. Older people have shown keen interest in obtaining technical support, Quast noted: "The mobile training courses are very much in demand and have been sorely missed in recent weeks."
Keener interest in care professions
Commenting on the long lack of newcomers to care professions, Quast noted a slight improvement and pointed to "rising trainee numbers". The pandemic may have helped somewhat as the image of nursing professions has changed for the better and society is now more aware of their importance. A campaign entitled "This is Nursing", launched in September 2019 by various stakeholders including GWHH, may also have helped. Posters, personal contacts, social media channels and an excellent film are now touting professions in the sector and the campaign is literally reaping awards such as the German Economic Film Award 2020 in September. The jury noted: "The film is incredibly accomplished. We were impressed by how you managed to bring the topic of care, which we all associate with difficulties, into the video with ease."
The Gesundheitswirtschaft Hamburg GmbH (GWHH) is the cluster agency of Hamburg's healthcare sector. Founded in 2009 by the Ministry of Health and Consumer Protection and the Chamber of Commerce, GWHH supports and links up all stakeholders to exploit and grow the potential for innovation in Hamburg. Its members include large hospitals and doctors' practices as well as private or statutory health insurers, healthcare groups and start-ups as well as representatives of commerce and science.