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Germany: The Video Doctor Is In


Doctors and patients have much to overcome together during the average relationship, but so often the most practical problem is one of location: can patients get to their doctors, or vice versa? And when they do, how much is the cost of that effort?

On July 1 this year, Germany’s health economy will take a major step towards solving this problem, with the country’s major health insurers agreeing to assume costs of co-called ‘Videosprechstunden’ (video consultations), as a part of the new e-health law which came into effect on January 1 of this year. The video consultation innovation is just one of many measures in the law, which will apply feed the new innovations into the system incrementally over the next three years.

E-health, or mobile health, or paperless health, or any other of the huge number of monikers and sub-sections within its sphere, is a huge subject in Germany currently. The global market is expected to double in size to a value of around $200bn by 2020. In Germany alone, the e-health market is expected to generate sales of €400m this year.

The new law has gone to some lengths to try and solve many of the practical challenges of moving from the classic system to the newer, slicker and more cost-efficient one. The largest hurdles have involved data security and accurately being able to divide up the costs and benefits between the stakeholders, with both aspects now extensively addressed with measures such as rewarding doctors for paperless paperwork, or for good maintenance of data within a national database, allowing emergency doctors to know the medical history of who they are dealing with that much faster.

Given the accelerating pace of digitalization in Germany, innovative digital companies are naturally intent on penetrating the market. A host of products and companies are ready to go, but regulatory progress -understandably considering the potentially sensitive nature of so much of the data - has been slower than technology's rapid change.

At the forthcoming Conference for Health IT (conhIT) in Berlin, from April 25-27, a number of these companies and products will be on display, showcasing the investment and innovation potential available in this pioneering market.

"The e-health law represents a healthy, structured move towards a clear and achievable vision of a fully functioning e-health market," said Julia Rühle, Manager Digital Health at Germany's federal economic development agency Germany Trade & Invest, which will also be at conhIT explaining the local conditions and mapping out the market for curious investors.

"That makes this year's conhIT particularly relevant, as with some of the recent challenges now overcome, this market and its vast well of potential can now be tapped."

“Using examples of best practice we want our papers at conhIT to also feature foreign companies, showing how they can effectively gain a foothold on the German market.“  

Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) is organizing an International Networking Lounge at the Congress, with a session in English for the benefit of an international audience. It highlights the opportunities for e-Health providers in different markets. The programme also includes workshops as well as guided theme-based tours of the fair and daily excursions to hospitals and research facilities, organised by the economic promotion agency Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie GmbH.