Electronic prescriptions are a reality today.
A conversation with Walter Oberhänsli about digitalisation in healthcare, patient empowerment and the future of the Zur Rose Group.
Walter Oberhänsli, digitalisation hit other sectors a while ago and is now increasingly affecting healthcare too. What changes are we facing?
— Digitalisation will thoroughly penetrate healthcare over the next few years and change the way patients behave. Patients will enjoy more convenience, just like in other sectors, but in healthcare there are two additional important aspects: firstly, the quality of treatment will improve massively. By avoiding media breaks as a result of today’s standard transfer of health information from paper to IT, it will be possible to identify possible interactions at any time and prevent incorrect medication. Secondly, there will ultimately be cost savings. Digitalisation is a prescription for cutting healthcare costs.
“Digitalisation is a prescription for cutting healthcare costs.”
Electronic prescriptions are key to genuine digitalisation in mail-order medication. What is it that makes them so essential?
— DElectronic prescriptions play a key role in various ways. Firstly, they improve process quality because, as mentioned, electronic processing means media breaks can be avoided. Secondly, they increase efficiency since, to take Germany as an example, it will no longer be necessary to have 500 million prescriptions per year physically handled multiple times. And thirdly, they simplify things considerably for the patients. They can collect their prescription from the nearest pharmacy, or they can forward it to a mail-order pharmacy and have their medication sent to them – just like they do in many other aspects of life. Electronic prescriptions are a reality today.
In Germany, electronic prescriptions are due to be launched in the middle of the year. How has the Zur Rose Group been preparing for that?
— Based on our experience in Switzerland, we invested in our own e-prescription technology at an early stage. As a result, the Zur Rose Group is playing a pioneering role in the German market as a systems supplier for e-prescription solutions. Gematik has until the end of June 2020 to draw up the specifications and licensing procedure for e-prescriptions. Experience from the pilot projects under way will be taken in consideration. We are therefore running various e-prescription pilot projects in strategic partnerships, which are giving us many interfaces to the linked systems and platforms. So we already have laid the foundations both internally and externally to connect rapidly and smoothly to the telematic infrastructure.
“The Zur Rose eco-system networks various different offerings from healthcare service providers to create a marketplace.”
DocMorris has joined cooperations with the German Association of General Practitioners and healthcare company KRY. The aim is to fully digitalise the medical care process. What shape will that take in concrete terms?
— In the cross-sector pilot project with the Association of General Practitioners, our e-prescription technology uses the associated app to network the general practitioner, patients and pharmacy all the way through to billing. The doctor uses software to prescribe electronically and sends the patient a QR prescription code. They can then use this code to have their prescription filled using an app, email or hard copy – either by mail-order or in a bricks and mortar pharmacy. The cooperation with KRY, Europe’s telemedicine provider, goes a step further: patients can contact a doctor over video using the app on their smartphone. After the telephone consultation the doctor can issue a prescrip-tion and send it to the patient digitally via the app. Our pharmacy partner DocMorris is connected seamlessly to the KRY app.
Your vision is already looking further ahead: Zur Rose wants to build a healthcare eco-system. What might that look like?
— The Zur Rose eco-system networks various different offerings from healthcare service providers to create a marketplace. Nowadays, patients are confronted with a host of healthcare offerings. This makes it difficult for them to find the right one. Our service will be to network all the offerings digitally and use artificial intelligence to make a relevant selection, so it’s easy for patients to select the right choice. Ultimately, this means they can manage their health better. You might also call it patient empowerment. The healthcare service providers get the ability to offer their product range and services on an open digital platform, allowing them to connect with a large number of patients.
“It’s a matter of helping patients not just to return to health, but above all to stay healthy.”
What are the next potential markets for a marketplace like this?
— Our most important markets are Switzerland and Germany. So initially we want to launch the marketplace model in these two countries: Germany first, then Switzerland. We already operate an e-commerce marketplace for consumer health, beauty and personal care products commonly sold in pharmacies in France and Spain, giving affiliated partner pharmacies quick access to mail-order sales for little investment.
Let’s come back to that word “empowerment”. You want to make it possible for patients to manage their health themselves. What makes you so confident they actually want to do this?
— I think this fits with a general trend for patients to want to know about their diagnosis and their treatment. For example, whether an application or a medication prescribed by a doctor might have side effects, or is generally tolerated. They want a second or third opinion. We strongly believe there is a great need to receive this information quickly and simply. Sharing information will mean that patients have a better understanding, which in turn is crucial for treatments and medications to have a better effect. It’s a matter of the patient knowing what they are doing. And of helping them not just to return to health, but above all to stay healthy. That is the great benefit of this approach.
Finally, let’s take a look into the future: where will Zur Rose be five years from now?
— Our vision is that five years from now Zur Rose will be the healthcare platform in Europe, where patients get everything they need for their health so they are ultimately in a position to manage their health and become healthier.