An increasing number of teleconsultation providers is already offering their services in Germany. Still, patients remain skeptical. The Corona pandemic is changing this situation.
Corona boosting the use of telemedicine services
The corona pandemic has been a true catalyst for telemedicine services in Germany. For many years, the digitalization of the healthcare system in Germany has been slow. Since 2018, the German Ministry of Health has pushed forward a significant number of legislative acts to digitalize the healthcare system. In December 2019, the German parliament passed the Digital Care Act (DVG) and the strict regulatory framework for teleconsultation has been relaxed. Since these changes, initial treatment via video call has now become possible.
The Covid-19 crisis has made the use of telemedicine and other digital health solutions an imperative. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung) has lifted limitations in terms of the amount of video consultation for physicians, more possibilities for video consultations for psychotherapists, and the possibility to issue a certificate for sick leave without personal contact.
Teleconsultation provider race has begun
As the market for telemedicine opens up, more and more teleconsultation providers – such as Dialogue from Canada and Online Doctors from Switzerland – are expanding their services to the German market (73 million potential customers with public health insurance and 9 million with private health insurance).
Swedish start-up Kry is also now active in Germany and recorded a 60 percent increase in video consultations in February following a 219 percent increase in March. Teleclinic, a German telemedicine pioneer, reports a weekly 50 percent increase since the beginning of the Corona outbreak. At present, many telemedicine providers also offer free Covid-19 consultation for German citizens.
While staying at home, digital solutions will help
Digital health solutions are also an important resource in dealing with the physical limitations and mental burden caused by home isolation. Kaia Health’s app-based therapy targets back pain with online motion and relaxation exercises. Since Corona hit Europe, the digital health company from Munich has recorded a 40 percent increase in terms of daily in-app activity. Berlin-based mental health start-up Selfapy now also offers specific corona support including hotlines, guided programs and coaching.
Setting the regulatory framework
Prior to the corona pandemic, Germany had already been developing the legal framework to bring more digital health applications (DiGAs) into the national statutory health system. Starting this summer, German physicians can prescribe such applications to their patients, while providers can then reimburse their services by statutory health insurance funds.
The pandemic has encouraged the use of digital health in Germany. Teleconsultations, medical apps and online coaching platforms have already proven their value. Growing patient and physician acceptance levels as well as the currently forming set of rules for this promising yet regulated market means that DiGAs are also here to stay after the pandemic.