11. May , 2018

Sweden: Ask Mr. Teledoktor

DiePresse report from André Anwar (11.05.2018)

Many patients enjoy the digital home visit without waiting time. But critics say that the teledoctor only helps people with harmless suffering and is a strain on the budget. (c) CHRISTOFER DRACKE

The telemedicine industry has been growing explosively since 2016, but with mixed results. In future, German doctors will also be allowed to treat patients via smartphone.

Stockholm. It is already a hit in Sweden, and now the offer is to be extended to Germany: medical consultation at the click of a mouse. Swedish telemedicine services such as Kry have grown explosively since the end of 2016 - since they have been allowed to bill via the central Swedish uniform health insurance like any other medical practice. In addition, the state subsidises every treatment in sparsely populated areas with 100 to 180 euros. Patients only pay the practice fee.

The network doctor provider Kry has grown from a handful of doctors to around 300 practitioners and 300,000 patient contacts. Patients can use their smartphone to choose between general practitioners, specialists and, since March, psychologists. The patients click through automated questions about their suffering. If this cannot be treated online, such as a broken leg, the patient is referred to a physical practice. The interview is designed to last 15 minutes, as with the general practitioner, but according to Kry, digital doctors can manage twice as many patients.

The doctor is sitting in the summer house

At Kry there are neither waiting rooms nor receptionists. The employees devote most of their time to IT, the network doctors sit at laptops at home, in the summer house or abroad. The only rule: They must treat their patients in a discreet place.

Kry and his competitors Min Doktor, Doktor.se and Medicoo compete for patients with elaborate advertising campaigns. Despite enormous growth, only 1.5 percent of visits to doctors in Sweden are conducted digitally. "There are many people who do not know that they can meet a doctor via their smartphone or iPad," says Kry founder Johannes Schildt.

Swedish telemedicine providers hope to expand in Germany with the decision of the German Doctors' Day to allow remote treatment without prior visitation. "We will start a pilot project in Baden-Württemberg at the end of 2018, with German doctors," said Samuel Danofsky from Kry.

Overall, Sweden's experience with the network doctors is mixed. Among the advantages are shorter waiting times, often it takes only ten minutes from the inquiry to the digital doctor's visit.

Quick access, long opening hours

However, experts warn that network physicians are increasing the costs of health insurance. Many visits to the digital doctor are unnecessary, say the critics. "In addition, there are quality deficiencies among network physicians," criticized physician Ove Andersson on TV station SVT. "Taxpayers' money is being diverted from municipal medical practices that focus on seriously ill patients. Digital services are mainly used by patients with minor complaints," said doctor Jonas Sjögren on Radio Sweden. 100 million euros per year are said to cost the state unnecessary online doctor's appointments.

("Die Presse", Print edition, 12.05.2018)

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