The German Healthcare Act, which came into play at the end of 2019, is a big deal for digital health startups. It means people in Germany can get reimbursed for a digital healthcare app (DiGA) prescribed by a doctor — a world-first.
It's removed a whole lot of hurdles for health startups in the country — but challenges remain, as we learnt on Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast this week.
Berlin-based HelloBetter, which helps people with mental health conditions including burnout, panic disorder and chronic pain, has six of its eleven cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes now available on prescription.
“We use cognitive behavioural therapy to help people change their lives in a way that lowers their symptoms and helps them feel better and lead happier lives,” Hannes Klöpper, HelloBetter’s CEO and cofounder, told Sifted.
It’s about educating physicians, as well as patients, about the existence of this new treatment modality
Digital therapeutics prescriptions still account for a very small percentage of overall health prescriptions in Germany, at just 0.03%.
But Klöpper reckons that number isn't quite as bad as it looks.
“It’s always a question of what you compare it to. So, that 0.03% is low if you compare it to all of the prescriptions that are written in a given year,” he said. “But if you compare it on an international scale, Germany is leading by far."
HelloBetter currently has 10k patients. Getting more to sign up requires more people knowing about the treatments in the first place, and seeing how effective they are. "It’s about educating physicians, as well as patients, about the existence of this new treatment modality.”
This week, the startup announced a €7m extension to its Series A funding for further US expansion. The company also recently received a breakthrough device designation by the FDA, the US regulator in charge of approving medical devices, and is working with the organisation to get its panic product approved for prescription in the US.
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“Generally, the US market is very competitive and we are under no illusion that €7m will be enough to conquer the US market,” said Klöpper. “It’s what enables us to focus on commercialisation in Germany and lay the groundwork for future US expansion by seeking this approval.”
On this episode of Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast we also chatted about: