HomeInterviewsEuropean healthtech in 2023 | With insights from Medudoc Founder, Mona Ciotta

European healthtech in 2023 | With insights from Medudoc Founder, Mona Ciotta

Healthcare is a fundamental part of life and society across the world – and it’s a space that constantly evolving, adapting and under scrutiny. Whilst the covid pandemic might now be fading out of daily conversations, it, in many ways, has left profound change and impact in the world – namely on healthcare. 

The global lockdown ushered in a new era of healthcare awareness and approaches. It highlighted just how important public health is, just how much pressure and stress healthcare workers and systems are under, and, opened up new possibilities for the future of health. 

The emerging healthcare-at-home movement reflects a new generation of healthcare whereby consumers are expecting to access quality care from the comfort of their homes- facilitated by tech. Tech-enables solutions for healthcare at home, as well as in-clinic – certainly seem to be the future of guaranteeing a healthy future. 

Healthtech is one of the fastest-growing verticals in Europe’s tech startup ecosystem. 

Healthtech refers to tech-enables products and services that enhance the connections between patients and healthcare workers, giving better health outcomes and improving lives as a whole. It’s inherently an impact-driven market and is improving healthcare delivery whilst decreasing costs and European innovators are paving the way. 

Founded in 2020, medudoc is a Berlin-based healthtech startup helping shape the future of this growing space. The medudoc digital patient education solution is extremely easy to use. which is one key factor, why the team was able to scale to three countries, dozens of hospitals and more than 1.5 million annual patients in such a short time. We chatted to founder Mona Ciotta to learn more about the company, as well as chat about what we can expect in healthtech in 2023.

Firstly, can you introduce us to Medudoc?

medudoc – short for “medical education and documentation” – is a SaaS platform that introduces a new era for patients and their families: Currently, patients despair of incomprehensible medical information in preparation for their surgery and yet are legally obliged to consent to have been educated comprehensively and extensively about their procedure and the associated risks. Doctors, on the other hand, struggle with the growing administrative, repetitive and analogue burdens. Clinics suffer from the costs. medudoc digitalises, animates and automates patient education in cooperation with medical and medico-legal experts and thus wants to save several hundred million euros for clinics and, in view of the acute shortage of specialists, relieve clinic staff from time wasted.

We envision a future of patient education that transcends from sole legal necessity toward real knowledge transfer and medical understanding for everyone.

What challenges in healthcare are you aiming to overcome?

The patient education market is almost monopolistic and many clinics have been using the same paper forms for decades. Our approach to individualized education via video completely rethinks the concept of informed patient consent. Spanning from the provision of advanced information to process integration into the daily routine of the clinic. We quickly realized that (in an industry where the fax machine is still often the preferred means of communication) we have developed a sort of autonomous driving vehicle, whereas in the health sector, it has just been agreed to build a uniform road system. That may be an exaggeration, but it reflects our experience. We have built our solution in a platform-agnostic way so that clinics can use medudoc without complex integration. In combination with a free trial phase, doctors can easily convince themselves of the benefits of video-based patient education and overcome organisational inertia.

Healthcare is a sector under a lot of stress and strain at the moment, across Europe. 

What are the core reasons for this, in your opinion?

There is an acute and widespread shortage of healthcare workers across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there will be a shortage of 15 million health professionals by 2030. On top of the Covid-19 pandemic, many hospitals have had to delay surgeries —a move that has resulted in a substantial backlog of surgical procedures where patients have to wait up to three years for crucial procedures. Hospitals acknowledge they don’t use advanced digital tools to improve effectiveness and prioritize surgical waiting lists. Instead, they try to shorten surgical turnover times, hire additional personnel and ask existing staff to work longer hours. In addition, processes for patient experience differ greatly and no general standard regulates the delivery of patient information and informed consent. This creates an additional time and administrative burden for physicians. Patients despair of incomprehensible or missing medical information and yet are legally obligated to consent to the procedure and associated risks. Clinics suffer from the costs and the leaving of frustrated medical staff.

What challenges do you see influencing healthcare in 2023?

The aftermath of the Corona pandemic and the current acutely high level of sick leave among hospital staff are again leading to the delay of elective operations. Patients are the ones who suffer and have to take a step back in terms of their health. On the other hand, hospital staff have to make up for this backlog, which only increases the time burden and pressure for the future.

In addition, the consequences of inflation are now also hitting hospitals. The increased costs not only affect energy supply, but also basic medical care supplies such as medicines, and implants, and external service providers such as laundry, cleaning and food-related services. Clinics cannot simply pass these costs on to the consumer like in a free market economy, as these are government-regulated prices.

This cost pressure, combined with a staff shortage that has been growing for years, is presenting hospitals with serious financial difficulties. According to a recent survey by the German Hospital Institute, almost no hospital is able to permanently finance current cost increases from regular revenues. Half of the hospitals surveyed rated their own liquidity as critical. Without inflation compensation or financial subsidy, hospitals are forced to make drastic decisions that could threaten the overall delivery of healthcare.

How can tech positively impact heatlthcare?

In Germany, almost one-third of all clinicians still spend almost 4 hours a day on bureaucratic work around patient documentation. This adds to the already high workload and results in even more doctors thinking about leaving their profession for good. So in my opinion digital innovations that focus on reducing redundant, repetitive and especially administrative tasks will be indispensable to relieve the burden on doctors and nursing staff.

What are the barriers?

Over the last decades, when introducing new IT systems and digital solutions, doctors were used to finding them often being buggy in the beginning or very burdensome to use. We have seen highly complicated digital solutions for once simple and quick manual tasks. Often resulting from purely technology focussed software development. This, understandably, was cause for frustration. Today, digital healthcare providers have understood that solutions have to be built user-centric and need to seamlessly integrate in clinical workflows without disturbing the daily care routine. But based on some legacy experiences we sometimes see initial restraint from clinicians as they expect testing new solutions will take up more of their time. On top, establishing new digital health solutions in clinics is a tedious and lengthy process. Especially for venture-backed start-ups, this is a tough market to forecast a quick way to profitability. Germany has introduced DIGA, a legal foundation for health Apps on prescription, where costs get reimbursed by all statutory health insurers. A safe way to show profitability one may assume. What we see at the moment is that many start-ups build their whole business model around getting certified as DIGA. But if they fail to fulfil the necessary requirements the whole business case vanishes. So it’s a risky move in my opinion to solely build a business based on this accreditation.

Which areas do you see having the most impact?

In my opinion, all digital solutions that aim to alleviate healthcare professionals’ workload, reducing the amount of time spent on manual, analog documentation and repetitive work as well as improving the patient experience will have the biggest impact. What we see in practice is that true innovation is not necessarily the fancy-sounding new AI solution but in most cases a simple process improvement that significantly reduces the workload.

Are there any emerging/growing trends in healthtech that you are excited about?

On a more meta level, the area of healthcare consumerism is on an unstoppable rise. The experiences and expectations in the daily life of patients as consumers are influencing the hospital environment and healthcare industry as a whole. Just like booking a hotel, deciding on a new insurance or buying a new phone – patients are used to certain digital experiences and start to expect the same in every area of their life. These so-called “liquid expectations” will become an essential differentiating asset for clinics when competing for patients over quality of care.

For us at medudoc, one of the most thrilling developments will be around the utilization of available healthcare data. The healthcare industry is one of the biggest generators of data worldwide, accounting >30% of all global data. The amount of medical data has increased by nearly 1000% in recent years and peaked at 2,000 exabytes in 2020. But, producing, gathering and accessing that data is expensive, siloed, fragmented, time-consuming or simply impossible and up until today, 80% remains completely untapped and unutilized. The wealth of this data could potentially solve some of humanity’s most pressing issues. The key players in this field will be the ones who can make medical data access holistic, real-time and affordable. For an even more efficient daily clinical routine, for predictive healthcare and even for data discovery-driven prevention of diseases.

What needs to be done to better healthcare through tech?

First of all, hospitals need immediate government support with pressing inflation costs. Otherwise, expenses will have to be cut on already scarce resources like clinical personnel. This will lead to a distribution of the same workload on fewer remaining people and will only fuel the vicious cycle of overworked clinical personnel and staff attrition. With hospitals worrying about their liquidity all digitization efforts are at risk to be deprioritized and come to a halt.

On top of that, clinical stakeholders need to challenge the status quo and change their mindset when delivering patient care and introducing digital solutions. Just because a process has been done a certain way for the past decades, does not necessarily mean it is also a good or efficient one. Changing clinical workflows for the better initially requires some time and inconvenient breaks with routines. But eventually, only then can we see true added value and time-relieve for clinicians.

How can startups help improve the future of health? 

And what support do they need to do that?

In an industry that is still vastly seen as monolithic with its complex structures of government, hospitals as well as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, startups are shaking up these fundamentals. One example: Looking at user interfaces, design and handling of digital offerings in hospitals, it becomes clear that existing digital solutions have often not been built with user-centred considerations in mind. Standards and product development techniques established in other industries such as design thinking, user journey mapping, etc. have been completely neglected. Have you seen a hospital information system, a software that handles all clinical administrative needs? They look straight out of the early 2000s and most of them actually are. Startups mostly follow a lean product development approach to ensure a proper product-market fit and truly answers its users – doctors’ and patients’ needs. While other consumer industries not only see a faster way to profitability, healthcare startups on top need to tackle complex regulatory measures (insurances, DRGs, GDPR, etc.) and proof of concepts with high effectiveness before go-to-market. This is a lengthy, cost-intensive process and you need to be prepared and aware that you signed up for an ironman and not a sprint. 

Not only mentally but also financially. In times of inflation, years of recession and geopolitical conflicts we’re talking about serious challenges for many start-up founders when raising capital. Healthcare startups, in my opinion, more than in any other industry, need investors who truly understand the tough market conditions and believe in the overall vision of fundamentally changing an ill-fated system for the better.

What are medudoc’s future plans?

It is our vision to shape an international standard for patient education. Therefore our goal is to enter new markets such as the UK and US. On top of that, with our solution for process optimization, we get data as a by-product. We found a compliant way to make this medical data access holistic, real-time and affordable and collect unique insights for insurance, pharma and medical device manufacturers. With these data sets, we will be able to improve clinical routines even more and build the foundation for a predictive healthcare approach and a data discovery-driven prevention of diseases.

Patricia Allen
Patricia Allen
is the Head of Content at EU-Startups. With a background in politics, Patricia has a real passion for how shared ideas across communities and cultures can bring new initiatives and innovations for the future. She spends her time bringing you the latest news and updates of startups across Europe, and curating our social media.
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