Digital ecosystems: an opportunity for healthcare



While there are risks of international players dominating the German and European markets, for the healthcare sector, it’s particularly important that we establish a digital ecosystem rooted in European values.

What opportunities does a national healthcare platform present?

I firmly believe that we should embrace the concept of a national health platform because anyone who has ever sought reliable health information online knows that it’s no simple task.

Likewise, those who have ventured into the realm of digital healthcare services are well aware of the challenges – it’s not a straightforward, simple, direct or swift process. We are resolute in our belief that a digital ecosystem capable of enhancing information dissemination and expediting transactions can be successfully applied to the healthcare sector.

The reality is that such a digital ecosystem does not currently exist. We therefore have a unique opportunity to lead the way, not only in Germany but also far beyond its borders. And we also have the chance to set a positive precedent for a government-led digital ecosystem, breaking new ground in the process.

What if our healthcare systems fail to take action?

If our national healthcare systems fail to take action, we will undoubtedly have missed a significant opportunity. In the healthcare sector, the established players have not yet achieved dominance, leaving us an opportunity to shape the entire system based on European values. However, it is highly likely that tech giants will enter this field simply because it is so highly lucrative and intriguing for them.

Merely establishing a digital ecosystem with basic functionality will not  prove sufficient. To be competitive, we must create a digital ecosystem that is user-friendly, genuinely valuable, and is quick and convenient to use.  Thsi is the only way we can be competitive and hold our own against the international tech giants.

How did you envision a competitive platform?

We used our proven ecosystem approach to design the national health platform. Together with a team from the Bertelsmann Stiftung, we focused on identifying the core element of the ecosystem we are developing here: communicating reliable health information.

We played out this communication of reliable health information through a concrete, comprehensible scenario and continuously evaluated it with participants from various groups. We adapted and refined it as needed, presenting it in formats conducive to productive discussions with these groups. In doing so, we sidestepped a common pitfall observed in other contexts, where abstract, feel-good visions with seemingly boundless possibilities fail to account for challenges.

Why did you choose to illustrate these specific scenarios using toys?

Yes, we actually used Playmobil cars and Playmobil figures. We applied the Tangible Ecosystem Design (TED) method developed at Fraunhofer IESE.

This involves using the ecosystem method, specifically the TED method, to model the entire ecosystem. This allows us to delineate roles within the ecosystem, identify interactions and define relationships.

What makes designing a health platform special?

Yes, while designing the national health platform, we things that distinguish it from other ecosystems we have observed across various sectors. First of all, of course, the intended target audience – patients – is an exceedingly large group. Health is vital for everyone. And the number of participant groups is significantly higher than what we have observed in other ecosystems.

Then, of course, we have the unique situation in the healthcare sector, where significantly more regulations are in place compared to other domains. Naturally, this also has an impact on the design of the digital ecosystem within the national healthcare platform. Finally, we should highlight a key distinction, namely that with a national healthcare platform, we have a governing body that is primarily oriented toward avoiding an undue emphasis on financial interests.



Dr. Matthias Naab and Dr. Marcus Trapp, co-founders of Full Flamingo, an eco-tech startup, aim to leverage the power of the platform economy for the greatest possible impact on sustainability. Before 2022, they held senior executive positions at Fraunhofer IESE, where they played a pivotal role in developing and overseeing the field of “Digital Ecosystems and the Platform Economy.”

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