A Year With DiGA

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DiGA: In Germany, apps can be prescribed by doctor

How has the introduction of the Digital Health Act and certified health apps (DiGA) impacted primary care in Germany? Have patients benefited? Have physicians embraced the new therapy options? I spoke to market experts, analyzed the first results, and outlined the big picture of a health system under transition.

The approval of the “Act to Improve Healthcare Provision through Digitalization and Innovation” (Digital Healthcare Act – DVG) on November 7, 2019, paved the way for apps on prescription in a health system with annual spending in excess of 410 billion Euros. It is still a system in its early stage of digitalization. The new law turned out to be a long-awaited spark that fired up a broader shift in healthcare. And even today its meaning goes far beyond a mere legislative amendment.

Regulations developed during the analog era must be reviewed and updated. The DVG states that “healthcare will be even more data-driven,” while “innovative care structures offer great opportunities for healthcare.”1  Nevertheless, only a few European countries have decided to redesign the legislative and reimbursement framework to get fit for the future. This has changed much since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of the current healthcare architectures.

Implementation of apps on prescription in Germany provides many lessons. On the one hand, it confirms the critical success factors for adoption of novel technologies: political leadership and will, followed by open dialogue with all stakeholders, education, and close collaboration between innovators and healthcare providers. On the other hand, it exposes the pitfalls that can be avoided.

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