Hybrid Care Model Can Fix Germany’s Access Problem, Ease Digital Transformation Pain Points

Digital Healthcare

Since its launch in May 2019, the German healthtech firm Wellster has been providing male focused, direct-to-consumer (D2C) treatments through two sub-brands, — Spring (dedicated to men’s sexual and lifestyle health) and Easy (overseeing medical testing and mental health) — serving over 1.5 million patients and generating over 200% revenue growth in 2021 alone.

To close the gender gap, the Munich-based company recently launched a new ‘FemTech’ platform known as MySummer, offering women treatments for a range of intimate and lifestyle health issues, starting in the areas of gynecology, urology and dermatology.

Related: Wellster Unveils Integrated Women’s Health Platform

“What we want to offer is effective and easy medical treatments and care to all kinds of women. We see ourselves as a holistic female health care platform – right now, MySummer is the only platform within Germany that offers exactly this holistic medical care,” Viola Karl, the platform’s general manager, told PYMNTS in an interview.

Like its male-focused brands, the firm is looking to fix the healthcare access problem in Germany, a country that has been slow to digitize its healthcare system, — the largest in Europe — only authorizing video consultations or electronic prescriptions about two years ago.

There’s also an important shame aspect the platform is looking to address, removing the fear of stigmatization certain health issues generate in patients, preventing them from seeking appropriate medical attention on time.

“We know from a study that we conducted that around 70% of the patients that we treat in the men’s platform have [never] been treated before simply because they didn’t want to talk about their issues, or they got their prescription from their medication illegally from an authorized doctor or pharmacy,” Karl said.

Overall, she noted that MySummer aims to complement, not replace, patients’ primary healthcare, and its goal is to advance the development of a hybrid medical healthcare system that can ease the country’s digital transformation pain points.

“It’s very important to stress that we don’t see [MySummer] as an alternative to a local doctor, but we see us as an add-on to the doctor. [We do not encourage patients to disregard] their offline doctor and do everything purely online.” she remarked.

Digital Signatures Secure Patient Data

MySummer onboards prescribing doctors who can access all the information on medical questionnaires and then can dial into a video consultation to speak directly to the patients.

A medical board consisting of leading female medical experts, doctors and professors from different medical fields within Germany also advise the startup around medical issues on a day-to-day basis, Karl explained.

When it comes to ensuring privacy and safeguarding patient information, the FemTech platform uses a range of tools, including digital signatures, to make sure that sensitive patient data is kept as secure as possible.

“The prescription is sent in an encrypted way to the pharmacy and the pharmacy can open the prescription with a digital signature by the doctor. We do make sure that there is no fraud on that end,” Karl explained.

To further promote a hybrid care model, she said they have partnered with about 8,000 local pharmacies across Germany to enable users to easily retrieve prescription drugs in-person from their physical local pharmacies.

“[Offline the] situation is exactly the same there. They receive our prescription with the digital signature by the approved doctor and they can only hand out the prescribed medication if there is one.”

The Patient at The Center

Navigating the German healthcare market, along with the challenges stemming from a lack of regulation and standards, are issues that MySummer and the broader Wellster firm will continue to navigate moving forward.

Read more: Wellster CEO: Without Standards, Germany’s Digital Healthcare Transformation Will Stall

Even though these regulatory setbacks can sometimes slow down the progress of local healthtech firms, Karl said that they offer opportunities to push the system forward.

The huge amounts of patient data they are gathering, for example, have the potential to transform healthcare delivery by improving the way patients are treated. “We really want to put the patient in the center of everything that we do and treat every person individually and we are able to add some value based on the [data] we generate,” she noted.

And despite the negative impacts of the pandemic, she pointed to the shifting mindset of patients who are increasingly embracing telemedicine and telehealth services as one way the crisis has played into their hands.

This mental shift has presented an opportunity for the platform to educate patients on the benefits they stand to gain from digital healthcare services. Karl said their message to them is:  “We’re not saying you can get everything [done on our] platform, but we can partner with you in certain areas and make your lives easier, more convenient and more healthy.”

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