Medgate, a provider of digital health services in which the Otto Group has held a majority stake since March 2022, uses telemedicine to offer fast and uncomplicated assistance in health-related matters. Many people will soon benefit from this.
Vacation at last! A family is on the train to Locarno, a picturesque small town in the Italian-speaking south of Switzerland. Everyone is very much looking forward to the time away – until the parents suddenly discover red spots on their nine-year-old daughter's face halfway through the trip. Soon there are so many that the family has to come to a difficult decision: continue the trip or get off the train as soon as possible and find the nearest doctor’s office? Getting sick is never pleasant, but there are situations, such as while on vacation, in which even a simple rash can become a complex challenge due to language barriers, lack of local knowledge, or lack of access to medical care. It is in precisely such moments that telemedicine, i.e., remote medical consultation using telecommunications, can reveal its full potential and quickly provide greater clarity: How serious is the rash? What treatment promises relief? Is it advisable to visit a local doctor’s office?
The digital health services company Medgate has been offering 24/7 teleconsultations with doctors via app, phone, video, and chat in Switzerland for more than twenty years and more than ten million digital doctor’s visits have already taken place in this way. Since 2020, German patients have also been able to use the service. Medgate currently cooperates with five health insurance companies, including Barmenia, SDK, and Inter. In addition, ADAC international health policyholders and premium members can use Medgate’s telemedical services as an insurance benefit when traveling abroad. This means that around six million people in Germany currently have the option of accessing modern telemedicine as part of their health insurance plan – without having to bear the costs themselves. In the future, around 73 million people with statutory health insurance will also have access to digital visits to the doctor via the Medgate app as a health insurance benefit. As recently as March 2022, the Otto Group acquired a majority stake in Medgate Holding, specifically expanding its digital services in the direction of digital health.
Preventive care is particularly important when traveling with children, which is why the family in our story has taken out international health insurance that also includes telemedicine services from Medgate. So they open the Medgate app on the train, schedule a teleconsultation, and are grateful when a doctor responds by video ten minutes later. The train car is almost empty; the parents can calmly describe the case and show the spots on their daughter.
In about half of all consultations with Medgate, no follow-up visits to a doctor’s office are necessary. Medgate can also issue certificates of incapacity for work, referrals, and electronic prescriptions. The latter can be filled at 7,000 local pharmacies thanks to a cooperation with the apotheken.de website. If other diagnostic findings or laboratory results are required, the telemedicine specialist will refer the patient to the appropriate location, such as a hospital, the office of a general practitioner, or other specialists.
Following the teleconsultation, Medgate gives the all-clear for the family on the way to vacation. The rash should soon subside after being treated with an ointment. So there is no longer anything standing in the way of their summer vacation.
Even though the number of digital visits to the doctor in Germany soared by around 900 percent to 2.7 million in 2020, services like these are still in their infancy in this country. Thus, only a small number of Germans have yet been able to get an idea of the potential that telemedicine consultations hold for them personally, but also for medical professionals and our healthcare system in general – when traveling and in all other life situations. Why telemedicine is such an important pillar for modern healthcare, what challenges our healthcare system is facing, and what a visit to the doctor might look like in the future is explained by physician and Medgate CEO Andy Fischer:
Alexander Birken, CEO of the Otto Group, also sees great potential in the field of telemedicine:
“We see tremendous potential in the digital health sector. Health is naturally a core component of people's lives, which makes integrated, digitally supported patient care highly relevant. The experience gained during the corona pandemic, for instance, strongly reaffirms this. With Medgate we are therefore expanding our digital offerings to include digital health, fully aligned with our vision of 'Responsible Commerce that inspires'.”