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Health 2.0 Gaining Traction in Germany

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Written by René Seifert, entrepreneur in Europe & India

[qi:046] As companies such as Google (GOOG) ready their Health 2.0 plans, numerous German firms are promising to bring more online transparency to that country’s notoriously over-regulated health care market. Incumbents with strong content portals like Netdoktor or Onmeda, which are comparable to WebMD in the U.S., have been around for years. Recently, however, new entrants have begun looking to capitalize on web 2.0 principles for health care as well.

One area that has seen fierce competition in recent weeks is focused on rating the country’s 120,000 physicians with their own practices, something the “demi-gods in white” (according to a German proverb) have never before faced.

Helpster and Imedo are among the recent entrants into this space. Imedo, for example, said recently that in order to integrate the adjacent medical ecosystem, it would include the certifications of the powerful German “Kassenärztliche Vereinigung,” a public organization in charge of distributing the lion’s share of physicians’ income, into its platform. DocInsider entered the market just last week, stirring controversy for kick-starting its content by copying ratings from Helpster without authorization.

In the transactional domain, 2te-Zahnarztmeinung and Arzt-Preisvergleich have gained significant traction by running reverse auctions — primarily for dentists’ treatments — which allow for a high degree of comparability. Navigating closely on the edge of what German law allows, a potential patient does not have to automatically contract with the cheapest offering. Instead, she can compare all anonymously quoted prices and take into account the ratings given by patients who have undergone a similar treatment. The physician she chooses then awards 15 to 20 percent of his fee back to the platform.

Interestingly, a rift has started to emerge between doctors in Germany — those who dismiss the methods as shady and others, especially young ones, who proactively employ them as part of their patient-acquisition strategy. At least there is unanimous support from one stakeholder group: the health insurers, who love such services because they drive down their costs.

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