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Medical data is stored digitally in Finland, like Germany is planning to do it starting from 2023 – Finland has been doing this for more than 20 years! Also: getting a prescription for a drug works fully digital as well since 2010. In Germany, companies like TeleClinic had to solve what the government was not able to fulfill: the digitalization of the healthcare industry. Now it seems like we are catching up.

The rise of the DiGA

By now most of our readers know what a DiGA is. For everyone who still did not hear the term: since the Digital Care Act in Germany of 2019, digital health applications (in German “Digitale Gesundheitsanwendungen”) are eligible for reimbursement if they are listed as a DiGA in the “DiGA Register”. To get in there, apps need to fulfill certain requirements like a proper data security strategy. As of January 2022, we are counting 28 DiGAs in the register ready for reimbursement.

Total amounts of new DiGA
Quelle: Brainwave Hub

By now, there are 45,000 reimbursements registered. Most likely you have not used a DiGA yet. One reason for this could be the readiness of doctors to actually prescribe an app. But the trend is pointing upwards.

If the amount of new DiGAs keeps growing like it did the past 12 months, we will break the 100 DiGA hurdle by 2025.

Advantages of Digital Health Applications

1. Patients

Receiving medical advice or treatment requires a lot of trust. Patients have to trust the practitioners to act in their best interest, to ask the right questions, and gather the right information to make the right decisions. Considering that most patients do not really know their doctors this implies a high amount of needed trust.

The information asymmetry between patients and healthcare practitioners is the reason why this trust is needed: the doctor just seems to “know it all” while patients do not have sufficient data and knowledge to weigh the doctor’s decisions. This is where DiGAs come into play: a digital health application is gathering your health data, processing it and giving it back to you in a manner you as a patient are able to understand. Our digital companions are basically translating meaningless data into meaningful insights into your health. It is all about data.

This leads to more patient centricity because your DiGA just serves you and acts in your best interest. It can help patients to understand their conditions better, treat them independently, or at least understand the decisions of doctors better. Down the road it empowers patients to be less dependable solely on the decisions of their doctors.

2. Providers

Most of the time your doctor can access your data from your digital health application to have a better understanding of your condition. It creates a link between patient and doctor, real-time and reliable. For example, the DiGA “companion patella” is gathering pain- and strain data from a patient to recommend individual activities and exercises for minimizing knee problems. Data is gathered constantly and sent to the patient’s doctor.

By 2023 Germany officially wants to be ready for the electronic patient record to digitally store all medical data in one place. This will help providers to stay up-to-date and organized. Some insurance companies in Germany are already starting to use the EPR now.

3. Institutions

The big players need to play along. Good thing: being a health insurance company in Germany is a competitive industry. Public insurance is more or less the same, wherever you decide to have your insurance. Therefore, insurers start to offer additional services to differentiate themselves from others. One important fight that is currently fought is the fight over market leadership in terms of digitalization.

AOK PLUS now offers digital health applications for their clients. Another insurer, the HEK, has already implemented a “digital healthcare ID” as well as the electronic patient record in their app. Things are moving.

Digital Health: Challenges and Chances

One of the biggest challenges of our data-driven world is data security. Especially storing sensitive medical data requires a lot of extra attention and worries some users. But there are prime examples, like Finland, of how well a more digitalized healthcare system can work. This is why Aescuvest is convinced as well that the chances are definitely outweighing the risks: patient-centricity, patient empowerment, and also the possibilities of prevention are much more valuable than being scared about possible data leaks. Should we keep a watchful eye on the processes concerned with our most private data? Certainly. But storing medical data in a safe cloud is a calculated risk that we might all agree on taking if it could help us to fight painful conditions or worse.

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