Telemedicine is Go
New laws and a shift in thinking from medical practitioners mean the telemedicine market is expected to become increasingly dynamic in Germany in the coming years. E-healthcare will make many processes more efficient.
The gates have opened to Germany’s telemedicine market. Insiders are expecting a boost in activity after regulatory changes have swept away obstacles, especially in the rural parts of Germany, where many patients still live some distance away from qualified specialists.
The Digital Healthcare Act (DVG), passed by the German parliament in late 2019, will accelerate the digitalization of the country’s healthcare sector. The new law allows doctors to prescribe healthcare apps and state health insurers to pay for them. In effect, access to the German healthcare market has never been easier for IT firms. This development comes hand-in-hand with a shift in thinking amongst doctors. In 2018, the German Medical Association scrapped the “long-distance treatment ban” which forbade doctors from making first contact with patients online.
Benefits of telemedicine
This is all good news, says Rainer Beckers, head of the Bochum-based Center for Telematics and Telemedicine and board member of DGTelemed e.V.: “The biggest health market in the EU has been liberalized for telemedicine applications.” But there is still room for development. Cristina Koehn is general manager of KRY Germany, a Swedish tele-medical provider. “In terms of the availability of digital options as a patient, in Germany that is only just starting now,” she says.
According to Beckers, telemedicine makes no claim to be “better” than traditional medicine, but can “have more efficient processes.” Studies have shown that patients with chronic problems benefit from around-the-clock monitoring provided by apps, reducing the time they need to spend in hospital. Similarly, it speeds up access to specialists. Such were the findings of a study conducted in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during a state-funded pilot for treating skin conditions online.
The rural areas of Germany have unique challenges when it comes to the availability of medical care. “KRY provides a solution,” says Koehn. “Our doctors can help via the KRY app, regardless of the location of the patient.” The UK-based telemedicine company Zava, is also planning to launch a new consultation app in Germany in 2020 and will hire Hamburg-based doctors for the task. Christophe Ovaere, Zava’s CMO says, “Our research shows that people both trust and are happy to pay for online consultations. The DVG law signals that the German legislator wants to empower patients to make digital medicine part of their healthcare.”