Technology and legislative changes mean that the future of digital health in Germany is bright. Nowhere more so than in the area of female health, writes Florian Weber, Chief Commercial Officer at SevenVentures.
Digital health: a booming industry
Digital health is developing at pace and the investor community is responding accordingly. Telemedicine, where doctors can offer patients consultations via video conference, is shortening the time for patients to receive appropriate care and this month it was reported that Swedish telemedicine startup KRY had received €140 million in financing. Mental health apps have been shown to be an effective alternative for when the wait for psychological therapy is too long, or it is too expensive, and last year US mental health app Calm became the world’s first mental health unicorn with a $88M investment at a $1 billion valuation. Wearables like Fitbits and Direct-to-Consumer medical devices now ensure more data comes from the patient and as a result professionals are hoping to better able personalise treatment. Healthcare has been an area slow to adapt to digital innovation but finally it seems to be catching up.
Germany is ready for digital health
After years of stagnation and little innovation, the German healthcare market is changing. The 2019 Digital Supply Law (DVG) means that doctors will be able to prescribe digital health apps to patients, which can be reimbursed by the country’s statutory health insurance. Also, doctors will be able to receive money for providing online consultation to patients with statutory insurance. Doctors will be allowed to provide information about video and online consultations on their websites, whereas before they had only been able to discuss these in private conversations. The legislation also aims to phase out the use of paper by promoting e-prescriptions. This shows that the government has really embraced digital healthcare. Indeed Germany wants to make both digital health and artificial intelligence European priorities during its rotating presidency of the Council of the EU this year.
Why the future is female
While these technologies and legislative changes undoubtedly offer great potential, we believe a so far untouched potential lies in female health and fertility. Firstly, due to the size of the market: the global fertility services market is expected to reach $30B by 2023, according to CBInsights. Secondly, because the subject of female health really concerns lifestyle as much as it does health – and many experts predict that people are willing to pay more for lifestyle products than for healthcare products. Thirdly, because the issue of fertility is of course a highly emotional topic. And fourthly, more generally because women tend to control the majority of spending in the household - 80% of household healthcare money is spent by women, according to data from research firm Frost & Sullivan. Examples of digital fertility products include Ava, a wearable device and app which helps women track their fertility cycles, and she’s well, a flexible subscription based model which offers services such as egg freezing, among others.
What is driving female health innovations? Firstly, without connectivity, many of these wearable and tracking products would not be possible. Secondly, fertility issues are much more widely discussed these days with the growth of online forums and resources. Finally there is a generally a greater understanding and empathy towards women who want to have both a family and a career, and wish to organise their lives to make this possible.
But fertility is certainly not the only area to benefit from the rise in digital health products for women – we are seeing a whole range of women’s connected products for everything from natural contraception planning via app, maternal health where sensors track contractions to smart breast pumps which track milk inventory. Many fertility products are expanding to cover more of the female life cycle. Flo Health started as just a fertility tracking app, but now is a hub covering all aspects of female health including even a tool to assess a user’s risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Ava raised $30 million in 2018 to expand into other aspects of female health – including contraception and menopause.
Digital health is a current key trend, but female digital health products have huge potential. We will continue to keep a close eye on developments in this area in the near future.