Join the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) at its inaugural Digital Health Lab Day this October 3, 2019. Organized by the ZHAW Digital Health Lab, the event will feature interesting discussions by researchers and practitioners on the latest trends and solutions in digital health, exciting presentations on ZHAW research projects, as well as interactive workshops.

I recently spoke with Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch, the Scientific Chair of the event and director of the lab, on why interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary for healthcare innovation, and what event attendees can expect at the first ZHAW Digital Health Lab Day.

Aisha Schnellmann: Why was ZHAW Digital Health Lab founded, and what is the role it intends to play in the healthcare industry in Switzerland and internationally?

Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch: The ZHAW Digital Health Lab is a virtual ZHAW-wide competence centre established at the end of 2018. It brings together experts from the fields of technology, healthcare, applications and health economics within ZHAW. This strong interdisciplinary collaboration is what enables the ZHAW Digital Health Lab to develop patient-oriented solutions and innovation that meet the current challenges of digitisation in healthcare.

AS: Tell us more about your role at the ZHAW Digital Health Lab.

SH: We manage the lab together with our board of directors and are in the phase of ramping up our visibility. Our lab cooperates with national associations, start-ups, established companies, hospitals, insurers, health service providers, and university partners. The next step we are working on is internationalisation. We have currently established contacts in the Greater Boston Area, USA, and India to institutionalise cooperation, and are in discussion with partners in the EU.

AS: You are currently working on a project that uses sensor technology in disease characterization of intracranial aneurysms. What do you hope to achieve with this work, and what is your personal motivation behind this endeavour?  

SH: Through this research project, we intend to improve the analysis and prediction of intracranial aneurysms – little pouches in brain vessels – that could be dangerous to patients. To look for disease patterns, we have built statistical tools enhanced with machine learning to better analyse large amounts of clinical data. These insights directly benefit patients by improving the decision process of disease management.

We have always collaborated closely with clinicians to solve real-world problems with better quantitative or mental disease models. Because our purpose-driven research is highly interdisciplinary, we work with clinicians, biologists, computer scientists, and engineers to benefit patients. It is definitely rewarding to see our research saving lives and to be a part of such a diverse research community intent on improving healthcare.


AS: How would you describe the digital health landscape in Switzerland? Who are the main drivers of digital health innovation in the country?

SH: Switzerland is a hub for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and health technology supported by excellent corporate and academic research. But in my opinion, the digital health landscape in Switzerland is still fragmented.

Nationally, innovation in digital health is strongly driven by the bigger universities. There is an increasing number of digital health start-ups, but these are still in their early stages. The big pharmaceutical multinational companies are primarily interested in the development of new drugs or in improving their existing products. The hospital and care provider landscape is further fragmented, with the electronic patient record still pending after years in development.

We have all the right ingredients, but nobody is putting these together to prepare a meal.

AS: What is certain though is that new technology will continue to impact healthcare delivery in significant ways. What are some examples of ongoing ZHAW projects that are leveraging on such new technology, that will be showcased on the Digital Health Lab Day?

SH: At the Digital Health Lab Day, we will discuss the latest trends and solutions in digital health such as technology-assisted movement training for people with limited functional capacity, the significance and reliability of smartphone accelerometers, and the state of AI in healthcare.

AS: New applications of health data will also be discussed at the event. What are some new ways ZHAW projects are processing and using health data to advance medical research and development?

SH: For example, the ZHAW Digital Health Lab is working on a collaborative customer-oriented project with the Department of Health and a major insurance company involving evidence-based tips on health topics and mobile apps to improve healthcare behaviour. The lab is also working on FairCare, an EU project focused on improving the coordination of formal and informal care.

AS: What do you think are the top three emerging technologies that will transform the healthcare industry and how medical care is provided?

SH: I believe a paradigm shift needs to happen in healthcare. Healthcare systems need to be human-centric with a focus on providing truly personalised medical care. Harnessing and unifying health data in smarter ways is one step in this direction. Connecting patient data into registries, reducing barriers to use of health data for statistical purposes, analysing health data from wearables, and enabling the interpretation of sensor data in real-time in clinics are examples of potential game-changers. Data fusion and machine learning will also become increasingly key tools in drug discovery and efficient clinical trial management.

At the same time, it is important to highlight that health data security and privacy should constantly be a top priority. Healthcare is highly regulated, and for good reasons. We should therefore collectively push healthcare innovation while safeguarding ethical rules.

AS: What can participants expect from its inaugural Digital Health Lab Day?

SH: The Digital Health Lab Day is a milestone in the work of the still young ZHAW Digital Health Lab. We are looking forward to keynotes from Prof Dr. Tavpritesh Segti (Indian Institute of Information Technology), Prof. Dr. Claudia Witt (University Hospital Zurich) and Dr. Ignacio H. Medrano (Savana Médica). In addition, there will be practice-oriented workshops in the afternoon. The event will end with a networking dinner where you can make new contacts and shape the future of healthcare with us!

We look forward to seeing you there! For more information, please visit:



About Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch

Sven Hirsch

Prof. Dr. Sven Hirsch is a researcher and lecturer in the field of complex biomedical systems at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). He heads the research group biomedical simulation and directs the ZHAW Digital Health Lab. In his work he merges statistical approaches like machine learning with mechanistic modelling to reproduce disease mechanisms and clinical pathways. He is active in health research to develop new disease biomarkers from clinical images, time series signals, and patient data to improve diagnosis and care. He has contributed to the understanding of intracranial aneurysm by simulating blood clotting and angiogenesis. His research activities now converge on digital health technologies and on making these promising tools useful.


About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean sociologist by training, interested in healthcare, education, and sustainability issues. She is passionate about producing content that promotes meaningful dialogue, focusing on print and digital content that resonates with a strong call-to-action. Based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

Digital transformation is set to revolutionize how hospitals deliver care. But is digital technology being harnessed equally effectively across all aspects of the healthcare system? “Not quite,” pointed out Pamina Göttelmann, Business Development Manager of imito AG. “Digital technology is well-adopted in areas such as diagnostics and treatment. But if you look at systems for documentation management and communications, technology can still play a bigger role in improving how these processes work.”

In hospitals today, for every hour a physician spends with a patient, they spend an estimated two hours updating the patient’s electronic health record. Unsurprisingly, a recent survey by Merritt Hawkins found that more than 78% of physicians experience periodic feelings of professional burnout due to factors such as loss of clinical autonomy, diminished time with patients, and the administrative burdens of updating electronic health records. “The workload and documentation load of nurses and doctors have increased. Today, everything needs to be documented, and this can be incredibly time-consuming. This is where new technologies can help,” she elaborated.

We rely on medical professionals to provide excellent medical care especially in their direct interactions with patients. So, when hospitals utilize digital technology to improve their legacy documentation management and communication systems, doctors and nurses will be able to focus on what matters most – the patient.

Smartphone technology makes better doctors

We recently spoke with Pamina, who shared with us about how her team is harnessing smartphone technology to streamline clinical processes in hospitals in Switzerland. The imito mobile app integrates seamlessly into the various systems used in hospitals (e.g. user identification, electronic medical records, archival of images), equipping medical professionals with a user-friendly tool to document photos or videos and communicate directly at a patient’s bedside, scan and save important documents, and digitally measure wounds, everything directly saved in electronic medical records, only while using a smartphone.




Photos: Imito AG

“Smartphone technology is not a new technology, but it is relatively under-utilized in the healthcare sector, especially in hospitals,” she explained. At least officially. According to survey results, more than 50% of doctors who work in hospitals use their smartphones for clinical documentation. These are exchanged via Messenger apps such as Whatsapp to gather feedback from more experienced colleagues. Under these conditions, data security is a concern.

When implemented effectively, however, app technology can help keep electronic health records accurate and facilitate the transfer of patient medical data between different healthcare institutions.

The cost of going digital

The benefits of digitally transforming processes in hospitals are well-documented. In fact, healthcare professionals Pamina’s team spoke to want these systems improved. But convincing decision-makers in hospital management to invest can be a challenge. “If the IT department in the hospital is strong and innovative, they are more likely to get pilots funded. Otherwise budget can be a real issue,” shared Pamina.

This is because overhauling legacy documentation management and communication systems, while necessary, can be costly. As a significant example, The Lucerne Cantonal Hospital purchased a new clinical informational system from the American software manufacturer, Epic, for 65.4 million francs (excluding MWST) in 2016. This cost includes the investment and operational costs for 8 years. A centralized IT solution for all medical, patient-related, and administrative data, implementing it requires the hospital to significantly rethink how its systems operate, how its medical professionals work, and the care that its patients receive.

Though hospitals that opt for digital health products that integrate with their current systems instead of a complete overhaul will find it lighter on their wallets, budgets for such changes still remain tight. This is where having the support of healthcare professionals can make a huge difference. “You have to be very patient. But if your product’s core functionalities are based on solving real pain points that doctors and nurses feel every day, it will eventually succeed. If you show healthcare professionals the potential benefits, their support could mean convincing hospital management to implement your solution,” explained Pamina.

Transforming patient care by supporting digital hospitals in improving its processes, therefore, is a marathon, not a sprint.

What’s next 

The future of the digital hospital looks promising. Many new technologies continue to emerge to bridge the gap between patient care and process. New models of digital hospitals continue to develop, such as the “cognitive hospital”, a next-generation hospital that is a “smart” facility itself and a strategic partner in patient care.

However, much of this future depends on how the healthcare industry solves this major challenge: Ensuring medical data security while enabling interoperability between systems. “The digital hospital is data-driven. Sharing medical data across healthcare institutions, however, is so difficult because it remains in isolated information silos. This is one of the reasons why progress continues to be slow,” concluded Pamina.


About Pamina Göttelmann

Pamina_GAfter completing her master thesis “Setting Investment Priorities for Mobile Solutions in Hospitals”, Pamina deepened her acquired knowledge with valuable field experience in mHealth. As a project manager at the University Hospital of Zurich, she initiated the introduction of mobile clinical app solutions in the hospital and was responsible for the development of its corporate mobile strategy. She has co-authored and shared some of her field experience in two publications. Pamina joined imito in November 2018 as the Business Development Manager.

About the author

Aisha Schnellmann is a Singaporean sociologist by training, interested in healthcare, education, and sustainability issues. She is passionate about producing content that promotes meaningful dialogue, focusing on print and digital content that resonates with a strong call-to-action. Based in Zurich, her interest in digital healthcare grew from the conversations she had with committed medical staff in rural hospitals in Asia, who remain hard-pressed with the technology available to them.

For more information about the next “Women in Digital Health” events

By Evgeniya Jung

If somebody told me just some years ago that hospitals would soon be using social media as a means to advertising their services and communicating with potential patients, I would be pretty surprised. However, big social media platforms deservedly earned their popularity in the healthcare sector due to their effectiveness in connecting those who provide healthcare services with those who are searching for them.  It is true that in many countries hospitals still don’t view powerful social platforms like Twitter or Facebook as a communication tool between a potential patient and a hospital. But the fact remains: In many countries it has proven to be effective and lucrative for hospitals to use social platforms, also due to significant changes to the health insurance system in Switzerland over the years and the need for hospitals to prove their function as an economic enterprise, using the structure of Swiss Diagnosis Related Groups, the Swiss version of a fee-per-case system.

But not only hospitals can use social media to their advantage.  Patients can also benefit from the use of social platforms in order to convey their wishes to those, whose services they might be using later. Being a frequent guest in hospitals due to diabetes and gaining deep understanding through my experience about how medical insurance, health centres and hospitals work, I took interest in the subject of hospitals’ involvement on social media. I am going to analyse the use of social platforms by some hospitals in Switzerland in order to show what catches an eye of a patient and what she or he expects from a hospital to publish on its page.

Sharing experience, seeking advice


First of all, it is very important for a patient to be engaged in conversations with other people, especially with those who face the same difficulties with health. Sharing experience and seeking advice is an important part of the interaction between patients and doctors or other patients, who went through the same troubles. This kind of interaction on social media can be encouraged by letting patients speak on camera about their experience through an interview (for sure, if the patient himself agrees to share his story) or letting them leave reviews and comments on social platforms.  It is also advisable to let patients speak openly about their experience at the hospital, no matter if good or bad. I found it very nice that hospitals like the Universitätsspital Zürich or the Klinik Hirslanden are answering politely on Facebook to all kinds of comments from their patients and trying to solve conflicts with all possible means. It helps show people that their opinion matters and that measures are undertaken to improve the level of satisfaction with the services.

Information and trust


The second thing that is greatly appreciated by patients is the publication of educative videos and articles on the page of a hospital. I have found loads of informative articles on diverse health problems on the pages of different Swiss hospitals. However, the quality of content varies greatly. The best work done so far in this direction is the videos from the Klinik Hirslanden on YouTube. Their videos are very informative, helpful and comprehensible. It is essential to remember that most patients don’t have medical education and they shouldn’t get a feeling like they don’t understand what they are reading or watching. The information has to be easily interpreted and put in simple words so that even children can understand it. In this way hospitals can make connections between patients, create a friendly and caring atmosphere and build credibility and trust.

Concern and care


Another important thing that patients value greatly when it comes to relationship between hospitals and patients is the demonstration of concern and care for other people. One of the ways to show on social media that your team at the hospital is not indifferent to the suffering of others is by posting news about different humanitarian campaigns and encouraging those who are interested and want to help to take an active part in volunteering work. I found it touching, when I discovered a link on the Facebook page of the Stadtspital Waid in Zürich to a project that a group of doctors organized in order to help establish basics for accident surgery in Tanzania. The Stadtspital Waid reported about their trip and the work the doctors are doing there. It is a great way to show support for the people who have no access to good medical care and social media can help build awareness and sympathy.

Since social media platforms are gaining popularity not only among private internet users, but also in business, it is only left to say that every hospital that wants to ensure its further success and development needs to consider being active on social platforms. Many hospitals in Switzerland are moving in the right direction, providing all the information needed for the patients about the hospital itself and its services. It allows building a bridge between a patient and a hospital, because communication is the very first and most important step in promoting mutual cooperation and trust between the two parties.

Are you a hospital or another institution in the healthcare system? Do you want to raise the attention of your stakeholders and improve communications to (potential) patients, medical doctors etc.? Then we might be able to help you.
Yes, I want to learn more about social media in healthcare

Sind sie für ein Spital oder eine andere Institution im Gesundheitswesen tätig? Wollen Sie die Kommunikation mit Ihren Stakeholdern wie (potentiellen) Patienten, Ärzten und Mitarbeitenden verbessern? Gerne helfen wir Ihnen dabei.
Informieren Sie sich bei uns über Social Media im Gesundheitswesen

(Services are available in German and English / Unsere Dienstleistung sind in Deutsch und Englisch verfügbar)

Picture sources:


Die Nutzung von Social Media Kanälen von Grossunternehmen über Behörden und Verwaltungen bis hin zu KMU’s in der Schweiz nimmt von Jahr zu Jahr zu. Die Nutzung von sozialen Netzwerken kann jedoch auch zu arbeitsrechtlichen Problemen führen. In der Donnerstagsrunde vom 4. Februar 2016 an der HWZ in Zürich gab der Vortrag von Frau lic iur. Gabriela Baumgartner, LL.M einen Einblick in diese arbeitsrechtlichen Aspekte. 

Gabriela Baumgartner arbeitet als Juristin und Journalistin beim Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen. Zudem ist sie Redaktorin der Sendungen “Kassensturz” und “Espresso” und Dozentin an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft in Zürich. Durch Fälle aus dem Alltag ist der Vortrag vom 4. Februar entstanden.

Da Social Media von immer mehr Unternehmen genutzt wird, stellen sich auch immer mehr arbeitsrechtliche Fragen. Ist die Nutzung von Facebook während der Arbeitszeit zulässig und in welchem Umfang? Welche Äusserungen auf sozialen Plattformen könnten heikel sein? Welche Rolle spielt dabei die Meinungsfreiheit? Einen weiteren wichtigen Punkt stellt das Veröffentlichen von Bildern dar. Wann berührt ein benutztes Bild ein Persönlichkeitsrecht und welche arbeitsrechtlichen Konsequenzen kann schliesslich die Nutzung von sozialen Netzwerken nach sich ziehen?

Die private Nutzung von sozialen Netzwerken während der Arbeitszeit ist grundsätzlich zulässig. Dies halten die EMRK (Europäische Menschenrechtskonvention) und verschiedene Bundesgerichtsentscheide fest. Dabei hat der Arbeitnehmer den Anspruch während der Arbeitszeit private Tätigkeiten erledigen zu dürfen. Dennoch wird dem Arbeitgeber eine Regelungskompetenz durch das Obligationenrecht zugewiesen. Dabei kann der Arbeitgeber dem Arbeitnehmer verschiedene Weisungen angeben, wie er sich am Arbeitsplatz zu verhalten hat. Diese Weisungen sind je nach Unternehmen verschieden und auch unterschiedlich streng angelegt. Es kann also festgehalten werden, dass eine private Nutzung von Facebook, Twitter & Co. zulässig ist, aber der Arbeitgeber sich an die Weisungen des Arbeitgebers halten muss.

Auf sozialen Netzwerken werden täglich Äusserungen gemacht. Dabei muss aus arbeitsrechtlicher Sicht berücksichtigt werden, dass gewisse Äusserungen nicht getätigt werden dürfen. Trotz der Meinungs- und Informationsfreiheit der Bundesverfassung darf man im Namen des Unternehmens nicht alles äussern. So können zum Beispiel rassistische Bemerkungen strafrechtlich verfolgt werden.

Die Kommunikation via Social Media funktioniert heute stark über Bilder. So veröffentlicht beispielsweise die Kantonspolizei Zürich Bilder von gesuchten Straftätern und bittet die Bevölkerung um Hilfe.

Auch im Gesundheitswesen werden soziale Netzwerke stark genutzt, um Interessierte mit laufend neuen Informationen zu versorgen und potenzielle Patienten von einem Konzept zu überzeugen. Auch Nutzen immer mehr Ärzte soziale Netzwerke, um sich mit anderen Ärzten austauschen zu können. Ein schönes Beispiel stellt der Twitter-Auftritt des Universitätsspitals Zürich dar. Jedes Unternehmen in der Gesundheitsbranche muss dabei darauf achten, was geäussert wird und welche Bilder hochgeladen werden.

Ein spannendes Beispiel eines Arztes hat zu einem interessanten Fall geführt. Der betreffende Arzt wollte sich mit anderen Ärzten auf Facebook bezüglich eines Röntgenbildes einer Patientin austauschen. Dafür lud er ein Röntgenbild der betreffenden Patientin auf Facebook hoch und vergass dabei, den Namen auf dem Röntgenbild zu löschen. Welche arbeitsrechtlichen Aspekte können hier nun aufgezeigt werden?

Zum einen hat der Arzt das Persönlichkeitsrecht der Patientin verletzt. Dies wird durch den Art. 28 im ZGB geregelt. Dabei muss die abgebildete Person der Veröffentlichung des Bildes zustimmen. Dies konnte die Patientin nicht. Zum anderen könnte diskutiert werden, ob der Arzt gewissen Weisungen des Arbeitsgebers nicht gerecht worden ist, indem er das Bild veröffentlicht hat und eine Treuepflichtverletzung vorliegt.

Das Nutzen von Social Media-Plattformen ist eine neue Art der Kommunikation und Meinungsäusserung mittels Text und Bild und stellt die Nutzer einerseits vor neue Möglichkeiten, aber auch vor neue Probleme. Nicht alle Äusserungen können problemlos getätigt werden und nicht jedes Bild sollte auf soziale Netzwerke hochgeladen werden. Um arbeitsrechtlichen Konsequenzen ausweichen zu können, sollten die neuen Medien mit Vorsicht genutzt werden. Für Arbeitgeber wird empfohlen, Reglemente zur Nutzung von elektronischen Medien und sozialen Netzwerden zu erlassen. Zudem kann eine Schulung der Mitarbeitenden in Bezug auf Social Media hilfreich sein.

Carmen Schneider studiert im Master an der Universität Luzern und arbeitet neu als Redaktorin bei Healthinar. Mit grossem Interesse am Gesundheitswesen möchte sie bei Healthinar ihr Wissen in Kommunikation und Marketing in einem neuen Bereich vertiefen.

Bildquelle: und

On June 11 2015, our event at the EB Zurich was a huge success, thanks to our fantastic four speakers, all coming from renowed hospitals in Zurich. There was:

– Andrea Heiniger, Social Media Manager, University Hospital Zurich.

– Stefan Lienhard, Project Leader Social Media, Hirslanden Private Hospital Group

– Renate Good, Head of Corporate Communications, Hospital Bülach

– Patrick Jola, Communications Officer & Assistant to CEO, Forel Clinic

After some opening words by our CEO & CMO, the four speakers presented their institutions social media strategies in a short presentation. After that, the public had the chance to discuss the topic in an inspired atmosphere with lots of questions and a refreshing networking reception afterwards.

Thank you all for making this first event unforgettable!

Last but of course not least, we are proud to present to you our 4th speaker at the next HEALTHINAR-event: Renate Good, Head of Corporate Communications, at Hospital Bülach, near Zurich in Switzerland.
A few years ago, Renate wrote a paper about social media and hospitals, titled “Wie viel Social Media braucht ein Spital? Quantifizierung der Social Media-Nutzung Amerikanischer, Deutscher und Schweizer Spitäler“, where she took a look at the social media use of diverse American, German and Swiss hospitals. Her conclusion, back then in 2011, was that it was unclear if and how much social media a hospital was needed. There were very few examples of institutions that used this new communication channels. However, Renates Goods prediction was that with an increasing competition and therefore more competitive pressure between hospitals, the need for more customer or patient loyalty would also rise. In terms of that social media would be taken into further consideration for a communication strategy in hospitals. If we look at the situation today this has mostly become true. With SwissDRG (Swiss fee-per-case system) there’s more competition, especially between private and public hospitals in Switzerland and also quite a few institutions are using various social media channels.
So it’s most interesting that the Hospital Bülach, where Renate Good works, is still not present on these channels. We are looking forward to Renates presentation and a lively discussion, thanks for participating!

More about the Hospital Bülach:

More about Renate Good:

Yes, there are more guidelines to follow than that if a hospital wants to use social media channels. But we consider these 5 the most important once you get started.

  • Be nice: Don’t just try to sell. Your (potential) customers  might also be (potential) patients. Consider that and show some real interest in people and their stories. If that’s true for you, your statements will always come across truthfully.
  • Be visual: People love vivid pictures and clear visuals and don’t forget: “One picture is worth ten thousand words”. Don’t save on the quality there. Anything else will just look rather sleazy and unprofessional. Which brings us the next point:
  • Be professional: Try to avoid as many mistakes as you can. We’re talking about orthography, a logical structure and appropriate pictures.
  • Be quick: React promptly and continuative on user comments, no matter if it’s praise or objection.
  • Take ownership: Request immediate ownership for automatically created profiles in the (sometimes even wrongly spelled) name of your hospital on different channels like Facebook, Linkedin etc. Get rid of the false information and bad pictures any user could have added. Like that, everybody can see that you’re taking care of the social media presence.

Last but not least: Don’t forget the personal contact, It means even though you have started using social media for the hospital, keep in mind that personal contact can not only expand but also deepen your (digital) network.

One of the speakers at our first showcase on 11.6.2015 will be Stefan Lienhard, project leader social media at the the famous Hirslanden Private Hospital Group. As one of the first hospitals in Switzerland, Hirslanden has realised an extensive social media strategy. Being hugely  successful with that, they won two marketing awards in 2013.

We are thrilled to have Stefan at our first event about hospitals and social media, thank you!


More information on Stefan Lienhard:

More about Hirslanden Private Hospital Group:

Stefan Lienhard Twitter: @lienu

For more information follow us on Twitter: @healthinar