Health insurance companies warn against prescription health apps

From the point of view of the statutory health insurance companies (GKV), the health apps that are now available on prescription lead to high and non-transparent costs. On average, prices, which suppliers were free to set in the first year, were around 400 euros per quarter, according to a report published by the Swedish Confederation of Health Insurance Health Insurance Funds on Tuesday.

The price range for these new digital healthcare applications for health insurance costs ranged from € 119 for a single license to € 743.75 for an activation code for a 90-day application 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.

GKV’s board member Stefanie Stoff-Ahnis said that everything that sparkles with the new offers is not gold. “Although the legislature, with a great leap of faith, has created maximum freedom for manufacturers to bring products to market that significantly improve the care of the insured, expectations have so far hardly been met.”

Only 80 percent of all patients use the apps

According to the GKV report, five of the 20 applications listed at the end of September 2021 were permanently included with available proof of benefit. There are currently 30 apps in the official directory, ten of which are permanent.

In total, between September 2020 and the end of September 2021, approximately 50,000 digital applications were prescribed or approved by health insurance companies, as stated in the report. Almost 80 percent have been activated. For the statutory funds, this entailed expenditure of EUR 13 million. It is still unclear how the prices that only the manufacturers set during the first year will come about and what calculations are behind it. In addition, the producer prices were in some cases significantly higher than 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 difference between comparatively low entry requirements, lack of cost-effectiveness and “hardly any meaningful function” must be further developed constructively.

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