Diagnosis per video chat

Telemedicine gaining popularity - legal basis now in place
15 June 2020

The first newsletter issued by the German Ministry of Health's health innovation hub (hih) termed COVID-19 "a disruptive event" that calls for innovative and unconventional solutions. "Digital technologies can help support and protect. Video consultation hours, chatbots and apps enable the exchange of data and communication without human interaction."

Digital supply act takes effect


The legal basis was created in 2018 when the ban on remote treatment was lifted and the "Law on Improved Supply through Digitalization and Innovation" or Digital Supply Act (DVG) came into force on December 19, 2019. "Patients should benefit from innovative care approaches as quickly as possible. For this reason, we are extending the innovation fund by five years and EUR 200 million annually. We are ensuring that successful approaches are quickly introduced into the health care system," said Jens Spahn, Germany's Minister for Health.


© BMG/Florian Gaertner (photothek.net)
Jens Spahn, Germany's Minister for Health

Great interest in video consultation

More than one in two German citizens can imagine taking advantage of a video consultation instead of visiting their doctor in person, according to the Healthcare-Barometer 2020. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) had interviewed 1,000 participants for the survey in February. The need for remote diagnosis increased significantly amid fears of infection at the peak of the pandemic and prompted the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) to expand its telemedical services.

Corona pandemic boosts telemedicine

In April, the UKE launched a pilot project under which doctors and therapists conduct outpatient therapies per video, for instance, in the fields of infectiology, rheumatology, refugee outpatient clinic or psychotherapy. "We want to offer our outpatients the best possible care during the corona pandemic, while at the same time reducing physical contact," said Tillmann Halbuer, Commercial Director of UKE's outpatient centre.

Range of medical services per video

More and more medical practices in Hamburg are offering video consultation hours. From the doctor's practice at the Michel, which offers classic family doctor services, to the ENT centre at the Opera, to the practice for rheumatology and clinical immunology in Struenseehaus, the Centre for Vascular Medicine Hamburg or the amedes medical centre, which specialises in fertility. As a rule, interested parties do not require any special technology except for a computer, tablet or mobile phone with camera, microphone and loudspeaker as well as a reliable internet connection.

Kry and Zava: Online medical practices on the rise

Online medical practices such as the Swedish telemedicine providers Kry and Zava are expanding into Germany. Launched in Sweden in 2014, Kry co-operates with local doctors and pharmacies. Over 1.8 million patients have already been treated, the company said and launched its German platform in late 2019. Zava, a pun on the French "Ça va?" for "How are you", was set up in 2011 by the Hamburg-based lawyer David Meinertz and the Briton Amit Khutti under the name DrEd. The digital doctor can assess around 35 symptoms ranging from flu-like infections, headaches or sleeping problems to gastrointestinal disorders. Zava refers patients, who cannot be treated remotely to a local doctor as online diagnoses cannot replace a personal visit to the doctor. However, these novel services can relieve the burden on doctors and supplement the healthcare system.