How telemedicine advances healthcare facilities

Fresenius Group expands telemedicine offerings

Curalie, a subsidiary of Fresenius, has taken over the digital health group (DGG). The goal: to be the first provider to bring a platform onto the market that digitally accompanies patients in all sectors of the health care system.

Both companies develop digital health offers for patients with chronic diseases. The DGG turns to the telemedical platform "TeLiPro" to general practitioners and specialists. Curalie, a subsidiary of the Fresenius Group, develops digital offers for rehabilitation and aftercare. At the moment you are working with two systems, i.e. with TeLiPro and Curalie. In the future, mab wants to merge all offers via Curalie, according to the company. The merger creates the first provider to digitally support patients in all sectors of the health care system, from outpatient and inpatient care to aftercare. Since the DGG has only been part of us for a few weeks, we are still in the planning phase. Bernd Altpeter, Managing Director of the Digital Health Group (DGG) GmbH and Prof. Dr. Matthias Köhler, Chief Medical Officer of Curalie, reports in an interview how the company wants to position itself now.

Health Relations: Curalie has taken over the digital health group in Frankfurt. According to the press release, the first goal is to gain 150,000 policyholders as users. In what period and how do you want to achieve this?

Bernd Altpeter:We currently care for more than 5,000 patients and around 50 payers participate in our special supply contracts. If we take this using the example of type 2 diabetes, this means that we can already reach around 87,000 insured persons through existing contracts, who are therefore entitled to digital care.

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Köhler: We are also in contact with the pension insurance and various associations in order to be able to integrate our aftercare offers into standard care. At the same time, we are working flat out to expand our health programs to include additional indications such as follow-up care for cardiological patients. A large network of health experts from the Fresenius company supports us in this. We are also gradually integrating our own rehabilitation facilities. This means that many patients across Germany can benefit from our digital programs. With all these measures, we want to reach 150,000 users in the next three years.

Health Relations: Covid-19 has given telemedicine a boom. How do you perceive this from the doctor and patient side?

Bernd Altpeter:I currently speak to doctors almost every day and in most cases they reflect a real need for digital offers. They are grateful for the new opportunities because this way they can keep in touch with their patients. The same applies, of course, to patients in reverse. In these times, concerns take a back seat and the benefits of such offers become more apparent. Of course, this does not mean that the subject is handled lightly.

"We have to detox the regulation and should adapt it much more closely to the individual needs of the users."

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Köhler: I just can approve that too! Even if the occasion is not very pleasant, this situation in particular shows the great advantages of digitally supported patient care. Since everything is now understandably focused on Covid 19 patients, people with chronic problems are increasingly taking a back seat. At the same time, they belong to the high-risk group and should avoid social contact as much as possible, including visits to the doctor in crowded waiting rooms. Rehabilitation measures in the therapeutic area are almost completely paused. In view of this situation, we have decided to make our digital offers available to doctors and healthcare facilities free of charge. In this way we hope to make a contribution to maintaining medical care for the people.

Health Relations: Are you prepared for this growth in demand?

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Köhler: That is precisely the advantage of digital interventions that they are “scalable”. We want to reach as many people as possible, with this goal we started. Because in view of the increasing number of chronically ill, elderly people and the fewer and fewer available people of working age, we have to rethink and break new ground. The system will not be financially viable in the long run. With the help of digital therapy offers, healthcare professionals can focus on the essentials in the doctor-patient relationship and care for more patients with less expenditure of time. Once a digital program has been developed, it is available to many people at the same time, without having to increase the number of supervisors proportionally.

Bernd Altpeter: We were already well positioned in advance, as we had to ensure scalability as part of the innovation fund projects.

Health Relations: Often it is the doctor's job to build trust with patients when it comes to telemedicine. What supports the doctor in this?

Bernd Altpeter: First of all, it can be said that patients are increasingly using digital services in their everyday private lives. More and more elderly people - our main target group - use messenger services, for example, almost every day to maintain social contacts. In addition, there are fewer and fewer technical barriers because almost everyone now has a smartphone. We know from studies that a large part of the German population is already ready to share health data online with a doctor. And because offers continue to improve, the benefits for patients continue to increase. And when something works, the willingness to use it increases automatically. For example, doctors can remotely carry out and monitor therapy adjustments at any time. In this way, the patient no longer has to come to the practice regularly for check-ups in order to carry out simple questions about their well-being.

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Köhler: From a medical point of view, the combination of direct and digital care is a real advantage. Digital forms of therapy should and cannot replace doctors and therapists, but support them in their therapeutic measures. Studies show that digital offers are particularly effective when they are carried out as “blended care”, i.e. as a combination of digital intervention and personal contact with the doctor or therapist. In particular, the therapy elements that can be individually planned into the daily routine are perceived very positively by many people, also because of the savings in travel and waiting times.
Of course, the quality is also decisive. All the contents of our products are therefore created together with our medical and therapeutic experts based on the latest research. Then they are scientifically evaluated by independent university institutions with regard to their effectiveness and user satisfaction. According to the data so far, the patients are very satisfied. Curalie itself is also a certified medical device manufacturer and takes into account all quality and risk management requirements.

Health Relations: What do we have to do now, in your opinion, in order to anchor telemedicine permanently in the health system even after the crisis? What are the three most important measures?

Bernd Altpeter: We have to detox the regulation and should adapt it much more closely to the individual needs of the users. We are still very technocratic. We define technologies and should rather define framework conditions, interfaces and use cases. In addition, there must be clear remuneration structures, not just for technologies, but for use cases. We need a clear definition of medical and economic benefits and the associated ones clear survey standards.

Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Köhler: Digital health offers need to be made more accessible, for patients and health professionals alike. This includes new remuneration models and integration into standard care. In addition, structures have to be created to measure and thus ensure the quality of such offers. Accompanying studies on effectiveness should become standard so that the programs can be continuously developed.

Health Relations: Thank you for the interview.

Info: The current situation poses great challenges for doctors and patients due to the high risk of infection, which is why the Curalie decided to discontinue its digital offers and the digital platform "TeLiPro health facilities" during the Corona crisis to offer free of charge. The programs are currently aimed at cardiac and kidney patients, diabetics and orthopedic patients, but are continuously being expanded. The website can be found at Interested parties can also register directly here.