Expensive and opaque: cash registers complain about high prices for “prescription apps”

Since 2020, so-called digital health applications (DiGA) can be taken over by the health insurance companies. However, GKV complained that the producer prices for “prescription apps” were too high.

The statutory health insurance companies (GKV) complain about high and non-transparent prices for health apps on prescription. On average, prices, which suppliers were free to set in the first year, were around € 400 per quarter, according to the first report from the National Association of Legal Health Insurance Funds on digital health claims on health insurance costs.

The price range ranged from € 119 for a single license to € 743.75 for an activation code for a 90-day use period.

As an additional offer that you can get on prescription, certain health apps have been on the market since the autumn of 2020. As regulated by law, there is a quick approval for them from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. If an app has been included in an official directory, doctors can print it. The statutory health insurance companies will temporarily cover the costs for one year – during this time, manufacturers must prove that their app improves patient care.

According to the GKV report, around 50,000 digital applications were prescribed or approved by health insurance companies between September 2020 and the end of September 2021. Almost 80 percent have been activated. For the statutory funds, this entailed expenditure of EUR 13 million. According to the report, it is still unclear how the prices that only the manufacturers set will come during the first year and what calculations are behind it. In addition, in some cases the producer prices were well above the prices requested for applications outside the official catalog.

Health apps are generally applications designed to support patients with diabetes and anxiety disorders, or to help with tinnitus therapy. According to the GKV report, such applications have the potential for better care. In order to meet expectations in the long run, however, the imbalance between comparatively low entry requirements, lack of cost-effectiveness and “hardly any meaningful function” must be further constructively developed.


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