Healthtech/News/

Healthtech Patient21 bags $142m from Target Global and emerges from stealth

Christopher Muhr, the former COO of car trading platform AUTO1, has been buying dental practices and 'injecting' them with technology

By Miriam Partington in Berlin

Founder and CEO Christopher Muhr

Berlin-based healthtech Patient21 is emerging from stealth mode after raising a total of $142m over several rounds led by Target Global.

Patient21 is a digi-physical platform aiming to use technology to fix the disjointed healthcare system that many  patients and doctors face. 

Over the last two years, Patient21 has been buying and refurbishing dental clinics and upgrading them with technology such as management software to assist with administrative tasks like booking appointments and managing patient data. 

The other aim of Patient21 is to offer patients an electronic health record (EHR) — in other words, a complete medical history that doctors can use to make better diagnoses. 

“It makes you think, ‘why are there so many cogs in the healthcare wheel?'”

The data aspect of Patient21’s offering is crucial, says the company, since EHRs do not yet exist in many European countries.

Christopher Muhr, the former COO of German used car trading platform AUTO1, founded Patient21 after a “harsh experience with the healthcare system” when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer a few years ago.

“The system is slow and in large parts very analogue. It makes you think, ‘Why are there so many cogs in the healthcare wheel?’ And ‘is that really the best we can do?’ And I think it’s not,” Muhr tells Sifted.

Spurred on by a pandemic-driven shift in consumer habits and widespread digital acceleration, investment in healthcare platforms reached record levels last year. European healthtech startups raised $8.1bn in 2021, up from $1.7bn in 2016.

Patient21 operates 25 clinics in 19 cities in Germany and plans to expand across Europe in the next two years. The company says it has grown more than 300% since 2020. 

An antiquated healthcare system

Patient21 focuses on “injecting technology” into every part of the patient’s journey to make it “as seamless as possible”, says Muhr. 

That’s everything from patients being able to book their appointment online to being able to exchange important data with the clinic digitally. These things, in theory, remove all paperwork — and reduce the time customers spend lounging at a receptionist’s counter waiting to be seen. 

Patient21 says it has a net promoter score of 93.8% — meaning that, so far, the vast majority of customers are likely to use the service again and recommend it to friends. Muhr says he’s looking to improve the experience of customers while in a physical clinic too, creating lockers where customers can leave their belongings and offering charging stations and wifi. 

“The sad news is that the doctor’s experience is equally as bad [as the patient’s]. Doctors are overburdened by a massive load of administrative stuff — approximately 40% of their working day,” says Muhr. “We’re trying to automate a lot of this for the doctor so that they can actually do what they are best at: treating patients.”

Patient21 is also focusing on improving what Muhr calls “the flow of data” from one healthcare professional to another.

“The sad news is that the doctor’s experience is equally as bad [as the patient’s]”

In many European countries, doctors do not have a complete medical record on hand for patients, and clinics do not share patient data from one to another.

A case in point: in Germany, if you break a bone, a patient would typically go to a hospital for a diagnosis and then take a CD-ROM with the information from that diagnosis to a specialist for their X-ray. From there, they’d take a new, updated CD to the hospital for surgery, and then onto the occupational therapist afterwards.

Germany is in the process of rolling out an electronic patient record (ePA) as part of its 2020 Digital Healthcare Act, but progress is slow, leaving a big gap in the market.

“While we hope for a successful rollout of ePA, it is our concern that due to the complexity of the registration and the authentication process for medical service providers, it will not gain a great deal of traction,” says Muhr. “Patient21 is unaffected by this initiative because our system works on a more consistent basis in which information is collected in a standardised manner — thereby making it easier for healthcare professionals to utilise.”

A lack of a central data layer to co-ordinate information also contributes to misdiagnoses, which some studies suggest affect 12m patients in the US every year.

Patient21 wants to build that “crucial” data layer. Its platform will hold “all patient information of every appointment attended by a patient”, says Muhr, which he claims will improve diagnosis, deliver better care and reduce costs.

Investor confidence

Patient21 is already digitising dental practices — which is a €93bn market opportunity in Europe — and is seeking to expand into other key areas of primary care such as GPs, gynaecology, neurology and cardiology, among others.

Shmuel Chafets, executive chairman and founder of Berlin-based VC firm Target Global, says that it backed Patient21 because it’s clear that the patient experience is “stuck in the analogue era”, and that doctors require better technology to do their jobs more effectively. 

“Frankly, if Muhr was going to open a kebab shop in Kreuzberg, I would be a seed investor”

However, other healthtech investors Sifted spoke to question whether Patient21 can really upgrade and add value to the patient experience across many diverse specialties. 

Nevertheless, Muhr seems to have won over investors with his impressive track record as an operator, says Chafets. Muhr has excited several high-profile tech companies such as Groupon and Auto1 — the latter of which listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange in February 2021 and is considered one of the great successes of German tech.

“When Christopher left Auto1, I told him we would back anything he does,” says Chafets. “Frankly, if he was going to open a kebab shop in Kreuzberg, I would be a seed investor.”

Aside from Target Global, Patient 21’s investors include Eight Roads, Piton Capital, Pico Venture Partners, Thomas Stafford and Kingsway.

Miriam is Sifted’s Germany correspondent. She tweets from @mparts_

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