Hamburg's Sympatient secures EUR 1.6 million for digital therapy

VR technology and app to lower costs and offer convenience
11 June 2020
Founders of Sympatient

The Hamburg-based Sympatient has raised EUR 1.6 million in a seed round with the Swiss venture capital Investiere as lead investor contributing EUR 0.7 million, a press release said Thursday (May 28, 2020). The round was joined by Investitions- und Förderbank Hamburg IFB and business angels.

Digital therapy for home use

Invirto, developed by Sympatient, is the first digital psychotherapy for home use. Based on virtual reality technology and an app, it enables exposure therapy at home guided by experienced psychotherapists who are reimbursed by Germany’s largest health insurer, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), which has 10.5 million policy holders. TK has offered the service since January 2020. Sympatient was founded in 2017 by Christian Angern, Julian Angern and Benedikt Reinke and employs 11 people.  Backed by the City of Hamburg, the start-up won the German Entrepreneur Award in September 2019. The company now hopes to forge close partnerships with psychotherapists, clinics and health insurers and is examining the possibility of having all health insurance companies cover the costs of therapy as part of the new Digital Supply Act (DVG).

Role of corona

The outbreak of the coronavirus has accelerated the digitalisation of medical and psychotherapeutic services. Around 10 million people in Germany suffer from anxiety disorders. Invirto addresses around 5 million people annually with the treatment of agoraphobia (claustrophobia), panic disorders and social anxiety. The ban on contacts during the pandemic has exacerbated the situation for many people who felt isolated. The fear of infection discouraged them from going to their doctor. Invirto offers these patients a digital alternative which provides access to therapy and relieves therapists at the same time.

First conversation per video chat

To improve support during the pandemic, Sympatient began offering the first compulsory consultation with Invirto per video chat in conjunction with TK in April. Patients choose between a personal consultation with the University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH) or the video-based chat, which has been backed by the Kassenärztlichen Bundesvereinigung (KBV) and psychotherapists' associations since March.

Expanding co-operation, saving costs

Angern pointed out: “The funding allows us to expand our co-operation with therapists and health insurers to help more patients access a gold-standard therapy without the usual long waiting times." Michael Lütolf, Investment Manager at Investiere, remarked: "Sympatient is the first company to provide standard medical treatment in anxiety therapy using an entirely digital solution. Invirto has the potential to help millions of patients cope with their fears, save the healthcare system costs and supports therapists with their therapy. We are pleased to accompany Sympatient on its path to becoming a leading provider of anxiety therapy. 

Progress through clinical studies 

Dörte Bunge, investment manager at IFB, added: "Sympatient has shown that digital therapies have a legitimate place in the care system. The team has made impressive progress in a short time with clinical studies and brought established partners on board. We fully support the team and its mission and hope they keep up the good work!"