Health apps now available on prescription in Germany

By Leila Hawkins
The move is part of Germany's push towards a digital healthcare system...

Two healthcare apps can now be prescribed by doctors in Germany with the costs covered by statutory insurance.

The two apps are Kalmeda, which aims to help with tinnitus, and Velibra, a digital therapy programme for anxiety. 

The move follows the launch of the Digital Healthcare Act (DVG) in 2019, which grants doctors in Germany permission to prescribe apps to their patients. According to consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners, while only six per cent of patients have used paid medical apps in the past, around 60 percent say they would use these tools if their physician prescribed them and the costs were covered. 

Legislation to digitise the country's healthcare system was passed in November 2019. As well as making medical apps available this way, the new laws are aiming to make the country's health system paperless, with e-prescriptions and plans to introduce electronic health records for patients with statutory insurance by 2021.

Digital health experts Jan Bordon and Gabor Kiss from Simon-Kucher & Partners say that while this presents a great opportunity for the digital healthcare industry, it also carries a degree of risk, particularly where price negotiations are concerned. 

In a statement, the consultants warned that companies should be prepared to negotiate: "Based on our experience with negotiations involving the Act on the Reform of the Market for Medicinal Products (AMNOG), we know how important it is to develop a clear pricing strategy. Without a thorough preparation and a structured plan and strategy for negotiations, companies will not succeed.

"In addition, the health insurance association will leverage its knowledge and experience from AMNOG processes, so companies should be prepared for tough price negotiations. If an app is already on the market and paid out of pocket, its selling price will impact its potential future reimbursement price. Furthermore the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV-SV) may reference reimbursement prices in other countries that integrate models similar to the German approach in their healthcare systems, and this may affect price negotiations. 

"This makes it all the more crucial for providers to have a comprehensive pricing strategy ready at an early stage."

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