A recent Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) webinar examined how rising demand for digital health apps, regulatory changes and a novel ”fast-track programme” have made the German healthcare market more accessible and promising for health tech innovators.
Research conducted last year by consulting company Roland Berger predicts that the German digital health market volume will grow exponentially in coming years. The sector could well be worth €38 billion by 2025, said Julia Pietsch, digital health expert at Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI). GTAI is the economic development agency for the Federal Republic of Germany that recently hosted a webinar, ‘International Market Insights: Germany – Digital Care Act, Market Trends & Opportunities‘, that also included Julia Hagen, director of regulation and politics at the German Ministry of Health’s health innovation hub.
Legislative changes made in the recent Digital Care Act have made digital health applications (so-called DIGAs) an enticing market, Pietsch added. Several experts also pointed out that with the largest elderly population in Europe and the second largest in the world – and high numbers of people with chronic and multiple diseases needing home and/or inpatient care – Germany has needed creative health tech solutions.
FAST TRACK TO MARKET
The Digital Care Act establishes “a completely new framework” that enables doctors to prescribe medical apps and other applications, paid for by public health insurance, said Hagen, while It also fast tracked applications into standard care.
Doctors in Germany are set to prescribe the first digital health applications, Hagen explained, with patients likely to benefit as early as this August or September. Apps may also be prescribed to patients when they are discharged from hospital.
Hagen also mentioned an innovation fund set up in Germany in 2016 to support new and innovative methods of care and care research projects not yet part of standard or statutory care. The initiative, she said, was due to be extended until 2024, with €200 million available per year.
“Health insurance companies can support need-based and patient-oriented development of digital innovation,” explained Pietsch, underscoring the business opportunities entailed for health tech innovators.
EASIER ACCESS TO RESEARCH DATA
The new legislation, Pietsch added, meant not only that every insured member in Germany would have access to an electronic health record by 2021 (a high proportion of the population since Germany has mandatory health insurance), but that teleconsultations would also be encouraged.
Moreover, researchers would have better access to patient data.
“With the Act, public health insurance companies will have to send anonymised member demographics and health data to a central database, and research organisations and universities can then request that data for research purposes,” Pietsch said.