Digital Health can be applied in many different ways. From the use of artificial intelligence or robotic surgery in medicine, to wearables that provide everyday health updates, to apps that offer courses, eHealth is a great asset for both patients and physicians.
Both doctors and insured patients have been able to use the electronic patient file in Germany since July 1, 2021, giving them fast and networked access to medical data. Alongside the establishment of the DiGA, other developments show a generally progressive attitude to digital health in Germany: a Bitkom study found that one in four doctors said they would like to prescribe health apps to their patients in the future. Electronic prescriptions, which are set to replace paper prescriptions completely from 2022 following the "Act on the Protection of Electronic Patient Data in the Telematics Infrastructure" (Patient Data Protection Act - PDSG), are already in the test phase.
It also became apparent during the pandemic that more and more patients prefer to order their medications from online pharmacies instead of visiting their local pharmacy in person.
Digital Health in the Digital Hub Initiative
The Digital Health Hub Nuremberg/Erlangen and the 5-HT Digital Hub Chemistry & Health Mannheim/Ludwigshafen are dedicated to focusing on "Digital Health". With the help of their strong ecosystem, they are able to connect start-ups, corporates, investors and the scientific community, and thereby drive digitization in the healthcare sector forward. There are numerous start-ups in the Digital Hub initiative that contribute to the development of innovations and digital business models in healthcare. We’d like to highlight three start-ups from our network as examples.
Keleya is a start-up that developed an app to accompany expectant mothers on their pregnancy journey. The app offers courses on birth preparation and regression, as well as recipes for a healthy pregnancy diet. The start-up has already managed to enter into collaborations with some health insurers, so that some services can be covered by them. In the Digital Hub Initiative, Keleya is part of the Smart Infrastructure Hubs Leipzig, which focuses on the development of innovations in the field of eHealth as well as the topics of energy and smart cities.
Selfapy is a start-up from the Mannheim/Ludwigshafen Hub that created an app for people with depression, anxiety or eating disorders. Based on behavioral therapy, the app offers online courses and psychological counseling services. What’s special is that the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices has already certified the app as a DiGA. This means that doctors or psychotherapists can prescribe its use, and the costs are covered by patients' health insurance providers.
The start-up mentalis from the Erlangen/Nuremberg Hub also offers support for people struggling with mental illness. The app provides digital aftercare for patients following a stay at a clinic. The start-up won the Health Award 2021 of the pharmaceutical company Novartis.
Altogether, these young companies have been very successful with their innovative approaches and have won over not only many patients, but also doctors and health insurance providers.
Looking forward: What does the future hold for the healthcare sector?
What's happening on the start-up scene shows that the digitization of healthcare is by no means just a political issue. Innovative products and applications from companies can change and even revolutionize healthcare in equal measure in the future - from medical care to administration. Healthcare start-ups are now able to put their services out on the healthcare market. The examples of the Initiative's Digital Hubs show that they are taking advantage of this opportunity. A study from the end of 2020 also forecasts an expansion of the digital healthcare market in Germany of 57 billion euros by 2025, with an increase of almost 50 percent predicted for Europe.
It’s exciting to witness how the digitization of the healthcare sector in Germany continues to develop. With this year's de:hub Journey, the Digital Hub Initiative is making a contribution to further development. On the journey visiting the three Digital Hubs Erlangen/Nuremberg, Mannheim/Ludwigshafen and Karlsruhe, medium-sized companies will have the opportunity to learn about technologies and business models related to the health of tomorrow. In the next podcast episode of "Update with...", which will be released on August 2, 2021, co-founder of the start-up Selfapy Nora Blum will also be talking about her visions for the future of digital health.