Everything you need to know about digital healthcare in Germany
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Everything you need to know about digital healthcare in Germany

We all know the feeling. You’re sick, sitting in bed, and have to leave to get a sick note for your work. You’ll most likely take a shower to clear the congestion before getting dressed. You’ll infect everyone on public transport for a doctor to just hand you the note without taking your temperature. Well, that’s where digital healthcare (aka video appointments) comes in handy!

It’s counterproductive to go to the doctor’s office when you know you have a common cold. After the pandemic, we’ve all (hopefully) learned to be a bit more responsible when it comes to our health. With most only going for the sick note, having the option to get one over the phone is the best.

The Germans know how problematic this is too. Back in 2019, before the pandemic, the government passed the Digitale-Versorgung-Gesetz, which translates to digital care or supply act. The idea was to innovate current digital healthcare processes with digital channels and use the insights to improve the overall system.

Thanks to this new law (and social distancing measures), it has become common practice to book appointments with doctors online. Doctolib even has added a function to search for doctors who offer online consultations. 

Booking a video appointment

Most insurance providers have covered video appointments since 2017, so there shouldn’t be an issue regarding your coverage. As you might have already guessed, it’s more that German doctors haven’t made the switch to offer online video consultations. This is a recent development as they try to limit the spread of COVID-19 and its variants while still offering essential services. 

To book a video appointment, go on Doctolib or Teleclinic to see which doctors offer the service. Suppose you already have a general practitioner from before the pandemic. Then it might be a good idea to give them a call to see if they offer video consultations online. 

During the pandemic, it was possible to get a sick note via telephone! Telephone sick notes are possible until September in some German cities. If your doctor doesn’t offer video consultations, this might be a good option but depends on your region and doctor. 

Should I be worried about digital security?

Digital security is a huge topic that’s continued to capture headlines for the past few years. Whether it’s from the US election and Cambridge Analytica to Europe’s GDPR, people are worried about what companies are doing with their data. And this is especially true when it comes to digital healthcare.

Within the DVG (Digital Care Act), they’ve thought about patient security which is why there are about 45 certified video providers that you can use for virtual doctor’s appointments. These providers offer end-to-end encryption, so no one can listen in when you’re in the appointment. The only concern you might need to have is thin walls if you have a roommate. 

If you need more information on booking an appointment, IamExpat has a great guide on video appointments.

Thinking about switching to private healthcare? You can check out our plans below. Also, a little secret: you can switch back to public!

Two essential benefits from the DVG

1. Health apps

Patients have been using health apps for many years with familiar names such as Apple Fitness, Doctolib, Nike Run Club, and so many more. 

These apps even have integrations with other technologies like Fitbit, which is a watch that monitors sleep, heart rate, and activity, Inne, which is a hormone testing tool for women. Or Tandem, which supports insulin pumps through mobile apps. 

DVG is a law that allows doctors to prescribe the use of these apps to their patients to monitor their health. Considering that many health apps focus on preventative care, it could also mean a shift in mentality regarding health as people focus on preventable diseases through lifestyle changes with the help of apps and their doctors. 

The new law also makes it easier for patients to claim reimbursement with their health insurance providers. 

2. Digital records

If you’ve ever had to switch doctors, you know that you’ll need to inform them to send your records to your new general practitioner. So, it should come as no surprise that doctors keep digital records on their patients. 

The DVG takes this common practice and makes it a requirement for all hospitals and pharmacies. Electronic health records help ensure doctors have access to relevant, potentially life-saving information on their patients wherever they are in Germany (and sometimes throughout Europe). 

The new law aims to standardize digital recordkeeping to improve the speed and quality of care. 

Are you thinking of moving to Germany? Want help signing up for insurance?