"The patient-centric care of the future is digital"

Interview with Andreas Bogusch, Director of Medgate Germany GmbH

Andreas Bogusch, Managing Director of Medgate Germany GmbH

The Medgate Group has been committed for over 20 years as a pioneering service provider in telemedicine. The entire industry is currently at a crossroads, says Germany's head Andreas Bogusch, and believes regulatory changes are urgently needed. He explained in an interview with Wirtschaftsforum what other technological possibilities AI holds for the doctor-patient relationship and how telemedicine was even possible in a time before smartphones.

Economic Forum: Mr. Bogusch, Medgate has been pioneering in telemedicine for 23 years now, which is significantly longer than many forms of communication, considered essential for it, have even existed!

Andreas Bogusch: That's correct. Originally, our company comes from Switzerland, where the regulatory conditions for our business model were already sufficiently in place around the turn of the millennium. Because until the ban on exclusive remote treatment was lifted in 2016, we would not have been able to offer our services in Germany in this form at all. We have remained true to our roots as a digital doctor's office in our more than two decades in the market and continue to see ourselves primarily as service providers, not primarily as technology suppliers, even though we naturally always rely on the latest developments when we are convinced we can use them for a targeted benefit for our patients and doctors. In the first years of our company history, we had to make do with a telephone hotline, which required a special finesse from our medical staff during the medical history-taking process. Today, of course, video consultations have long since become the method of choice, while the Swiss version of Medgate now also allows pictures to be submitted via a chat function.

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Economic Forum: So far, the offer of Medgate Germany GmbH is exclusively aimed at privately insured individuals and self-payers, leaving the majority of German patients – those insured by statutory health insurance – as an inaccessible market for them. In this context, what kind of impact can Medgate actually make?

Andreas Bogusch: It is true that due to the current regulatory framework, we are unable to bill our services with statutory health insurance companies. However, at the same time, we believe that the legal requirements must align with the long-term realities of care and the needs of the patients. Considering within this context that in the coming years Germany will face a shortage of around 15,000 medical practitioners, and those remaining are already fully occupied with their challenging daily professional and personal routines, it becomes apparent that an effective, practical, secure, and patient-oriented solution is required for this issue – and telemedicine could play a decisive role in this. Therefore, it is also time for the current market players to dispel existing resentments among political and administrative decision-makers – as the industry stands at a crossroads, with some providers already withdrawing from the market. If this occurs broadly without the right regulatory frameworks being established in time, it would be a needless lost opportunity for sustainable modernization of patient care and lasting relief for medical personnel.

Economic Forum: What is the specific benefit of Medgate?

Andreas Bogusch: In Switzerland, Medgate was able to clearly demonstrate that with our offer, a reliable control function can be implemented, in which patients are directed through the healthcare system at a low threshold. About half of them can already be fully treated by our doctors, while in other cases a referral to resident colleagues or other healthcare providers occurs. A similar role is played by the general practitioner model for statutory health insurance in Germany, only that it hardly holds any relevant incentives for the patient. Medgate, on the other hand, is available around the clock and is welcomed by the affected parties due to its gained flexibility and user-friendliness. Thanks to the associated cost savings, some providers of private health insurance were already able to lower the insurance premiums for tariffs that mandatorily include the use of Medgate for the patient.

Economic Forum: What other technological possibilities does the future hold?

Andreas Bogusch: Thanks to AI, the job profile of general practitioners or internists will change in perspective, similar to how the primarily monitoring function is assigned to the pilot of an airplane regarding safety. Possibly, AI could soon suggest pivotal anamnestic questions in the dialogue between doctor and patient, encourage further treatment options, or point out potential serious dangers that may elude even experienced doctors. Thus, an even safer, more pleasant, and more promising medical treatment could be conducted.