1000 days of DiGA: MedtecLIVE in Nürnberg
On May 23, 2023, Selfapy's Co-CEO Adham Kassab and Maja Hoock, Innovation Lead of Pfizer Healthcare Hub Berlin, were on the Innovation Stage at MedtecLIVE in Nuremberg for the session "1000 days of app on prescription - insights into status quo, approval & collaboration opportunities." They presented Pfizer's world-first DiGA: "Selfapy's online course for chronic pain".
MedtecLIVE takes place annually in Nuremberg or Stuttgart and is the central European trade fair for medical technology. The latest medical technologies are presented at the three-day event; focus topics are digitalization, production of the future, transformation and regulation.
The DiGA cooperation between Selfapy and Pfizer at the Innovation Stage
Recently, collaboration partners Pfizer and Selfapy were pleased to announce the inclusion of "Selfapy's online course for chronic Pain" in the official DiGA directory: the approval process was a real challenge, said Adham Kassab. He emphasized that DiGA must go through a rigorous evaluation process to be included in the BfArM (German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices) directory. These strict quality and safety rules of DiGA are a quality feature in contrast to freely available health apps without prescription, he said. Patients, physicians and therapists can use the certified apps on prescription to support therapy and monitor health status. Kassab also reported on potential hurdles in meeting regulatory standards and how they can be overcome. Support would include strategic partnerships.
Maja Hoock shared her experiences with the visitors and explained Pfizer's role as a DiGA collaboration partner: "With our work in the Pfizer Healthcare Hub, we help startups successfully master the difficult phase of market launch - and enable patients to access digital applications."
Pfizer supported Selfapy in its market launch with marketing, PR and the sales and medical expertise of a research-based pharmaceutical company. "Apps on prescription have been available in Germany for 1000 days - a success story that for us has just been crowned with the launch of Pfizer's first DiGA worldwide. We generated a lot of insights and learnings with this DiGA collaboration. Now we are evaluating them to further accelerate processes and make them globally usable for Pfizer," says Maja Hoock about the importance of this partnership for the global Pfizer organization.
Keynote speeches around DiGA
Malte Fritsche (BITKOM) moderated the keynote presentations on the Innovation Stage and first announced Vincent Erdmann from Digital Oxygen. The latter spoke about DiGA basics and said that three years after the introduction of the law, little was known about DiGA among the general public. His presentation was titled "1000 Days of DiGA: Between Innovation and Regulatory Hurdles." Michael Schober of mediatixx used his own survey analyses to show how DiGA is used in everyday practice and how practice software can interact with DiGA. Paul Burggraf from Thryve talked about interoperability of digital health apps in his keynote presentation.
The conclusion of the one-and-a-half-hour session on the status quo, approval and cooperation opportunities for DiGA: Even if success stories like Selfapy have been written, the German healthcare system still has a few lessons to learn. The processes surrounding the DiGA must be further optimized in order to make the digital applications available to patients more quickly.
German healthcare industry, digitalization and DiGA: Portuguese delegation visits Pfizer Healthcare Hub
On Thursday, April 27, 2023, the Pfizer Healthcare Hub in Berlin opened its doors to a Portuguese delegation with representatives of the digital life science industry. The delegation, composed of founders, partners and CEOs of the innovative companies BMD Software, Complear, Healthy Smart Cities and PLUX, was led by Joana Feijó, Business Development Director of Health at Cluster Portugal. The team around Pfizer Healthcare Hub provided insights into the digitalization of the German healthcare sector. During the discussion about current developments, opportunities and challenges of the digitalization of the healthcare sector, a mutually beneficial dialog with new impulses, insights and perspectives emerged.
The Pfizer Healthcare Hub as an enabler of digital collaborations
Thorsten Mintel, Director Strategic Innovation, introduced Pfizer to the visitors:inside and emphasized the importance of the Pfizer Healthcare Hub in his presentation: "With the Healthcare Hubs, Pfizer wants to further achieve its digital goals. New players like startups are helping shape the healthcare system of the future. We collaborate with them to benefit from each other." Maja Hoock, Lead of Pfizer Healthcare Hub Berlin, outlined the status quo of the digital healthcare market in Germany and the Digital Healthcare Act as the basis for reimbursable healthcare applications (DiGA). Using the three collaborations with Selfapy, Cortrium and Eila, Innovation Manager Paulina Achter drew a picture of how the Healthcare Hub works. "The Expert:innen team from Portugal showed us what a positive role digitalization can play where it is already actively lived. We are taking away many impulses and suggestions," said Maja Hoock. She outlined the challenges of the growth market DiGA and deepened the insights into the working methods of the Pfizer Healthcare Hub. In the subsequent Q&A session, participants discussed access to the German healthcare market and possible cooperation models for players in the Portuguese life sciences industry.
Take-away for the Portuguese representatives
The similarities and differences between the healthcare systems, especially with regard to mutual learning, were the focus at the end of the event. For the hub team, the insights and experiences of the Portuguese visitors with the digital infrastructure were profitable: Due to the strong political will of the Ministry of Health, Portugal is ahead of Germany in many areas. For the visitors, the insights into the German DiGA landscape were particularly valuable - for example, the requirements for data protection, user-friendliness, evidence of positive effects on care for inclusion in the DiGA directory, or the fast-track procedure.
We at Pfizer Healthcare Hub look forward to continuing this exchange!
Pfizer makes the case for cross-border innovation ecosystem
Kick-off for the cooperation between the Pfizer Healthcare Hub and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland: At the start of a joint project to optimize patient care, five students of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts gained exciting insights into Pfizer's highly automated production facilities at the Freiburg site.
Promoting resilient innovation ecosystems is one of the core tasks of the Pfizer Healthcare Hub, which the two teams in Freiburg and Berlin are advancing in a variety of ways - this time through a collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. As part of the CreaLab teaching and development format, five students develop solutions for current social and economic challenges within a few days. The format is supervised by Prof. Dr. Tina Haisch, university lecturer and experienced consultant for innovation processes.
The students work together with experts, doctoral students, lecturers and companies such as Pfizer on a defined problem. Pfizer thus offers students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge using real-life practical examples: through the format, students not only learn about innovation management approaches in theory, but experience them first-hand. In return, Pfizer benefits from current methods, approaches and new perspectives. And by the way, the project brings the two countries in the border triangle a little closer together.
We wish the students every success in carrying out the project!
Showroom for the use of immersive technologies in the healthcare industry
On February 15, the Baden Campus became a showroom for the digitized healthcare industry: 22 innovators from Germany and Alsace demonstrated their solutions, ranging from platforms for creating VR training, visualization solutions for medical and life sciences research to VR-supported rehabilitation applications. On stage, experts from XR and the healthcare industry discussed and spoke about the role of immersive technologies for the healthcare industry. The conclusion: We are on the right track, even if a lot can and must still happen. VR and AR are not an end in themselves, but offer the potential to improve healthcare and thus create direct added value for patients.
AR and VR in use at Pfizer
After the welcome by Peter Neske from Pfizer Healthcare Hub, Dr. Thomas Scheuerle from BadenCampus, Iris Frick from Deutsche Messe and Maren Courage from VR Business Club, Thomas Kleine, Head of IT & Digital Pfizer Germany, opened the event with more than 150 participants with his keynote about new technologies with the focus goal of translation into everyday care. He began by using the development of the Corona vaccine as an example to show the enormous potential of digitalization for the pharmaceutical industry and the concrete benefits for patients. Using two concrete examples, he showed that Pfizer is actively driving the establishment of new technologies such as AR or VR and embedding them in the respective patient pathway: For example, Pfizer is developing virtual reality training courses to provide further simulation-based training for medical professionals. For this purpose, Pfizer is cooperating with the startup 3spin, which is developing the corresponding software that allows users to create their own VR and AR training courses at the click of a mouse. The company from Darmstadt was one of 22 startups to present its no-code software to the interested audience.
"Quality medicine in real time": Prof. Dr. Frederik Wenz on the digital transformation of a university hospital
"No patient will be treated at Freiburg University Hospital without the influence of AI," said Prof. Dr. Frederik Wenz, Executive Medical Director of Freiburg University Hospital, about the state of digitalization at Freiburg University Hospital. In his keynote, he provided insights into the digitalization of the University Hospital and emphasized the urgency of the transformation processes: "Digital transformation is a huge challenge, but if you don't start now, you won't be able to offer services in two to three years."
Experience virtual reality in person
After a high-level round of introductions of all the startups present, which was moderated by Günther Illert of Healthcare Shapers, the participants were able to experience live at 22 stations what functions virtual reality can assume for the healthcare industry: With VR goggles, headsets, controllers and gloves, the participants moved through simulations, virtual rooms and faced challenges, such as those used in the training of nursing staff – along the way, questions were answered, valuable contacts were made and initial ideas for collaborations were already being considered.
From the 5-HT network: Visual Abstracts and Goodly Innovations
Among others, Dr. Benito Campos from the startup Visual Abstracts and Robert Hoffmeister from Goodly Innovations, with whom Peter Neske established contact at the 5-HT Innovators Club in November 2022, were also present. This meeting not only gave the two startups the opportunity to present themselves to a tri-national network in Breisach, but there are also talks with several Pfizer business units about a cooperation between Pfizer and Visual Abstracts as well as concrete interest in carrying out a proof of concept with Goodly Innovations via the global hub network – a real 5-HT success story.
Cynteract and StellDirVor
Also present was Cynteract with Gernot Sümmermann: The startup wants to make hand rehabilitation more motivating through a gamification approach. The Pfizer Healthcare Hub has been watching Cynteract for some time, and scaling via the Hub network would be interesting for Cynteract. Theda Ockenga presented StellDirVor, also a startup for which the opportunity to present itself at the innovation event arose through contact with the Pfizer Healthcare Hub to to drive concrete projects in the local innovation ecosystem.
How does innovation around digitalization get into the reality of care?
The panel discussion with Prof. Dr. David Matusiewicz, founder and CEO of the DXM Group, Prof. Dr. Miriam Rüsseler, Professor of Medical Didactics and Clinical Simulation, Dr. Armin Pscherer Co-Founder and CEO of the Healthcare Innovation Institute and Thomas Kleine addressed, among other things, the advantages of digital training for medical staff. Prof. Dr. Rüsseler reported on her experiences in the simulation hospital, where virtual training modules can be used to train processes and procedures virtually before they are carried out at the patient. Structural hurdles, such as outdated licensing regulations, which prevent translation into the real world of healthcare, were also discussed. Thomas Kleine emphasized the importance of cooperation in order to establish digital innovations in everyday care: "We are on the right track. We have recognized what is needed and must now move from thinking to acting. For this, we need strong partnerships not only between startups and pharma, but between all players in the healthcare ecosystem." When asked what advice she would give to startups and companies, Prof. Dr. David Matusiewicz replied, "Just do it. Start with small things, then bigger things develop from there."
Immersive technologies have enormous potential, offering solutions to major challenges such as the shortage of skilled workers or even the climate crisis. And if the mood on the BadenCampus is to be believed, VR, AR and the Metaverse not only make processes more efficient, procedures simpler and training more lively – they also bring a lot of fun!
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who made the event such a success!