Tobias Gantner speaking at the opening of TeleMedicon-Praxis Spiegelberg

Tobias Gantner speaking at the opening of TeleMedicon-Praxis Spiegelberg

Improving health care in rural areas with practices without doctors

Sciana Member Tobias Gantner helps launch new scheme in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, to fill existing gaps in health care coverage

A NEW project co-designed by Sciana Member Tobias Gantner to improve health care access in rural areas has been launched this afternoon.

TeleMedicon – a practice without doctors – has opened in Spiegelberg today, a town in the district of Rems-Murr in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Medical assistants will manage the practices, which include telemedical devices that allow doctors and specialist physicians to carry out video consultations. Another practice will also open in Zweiflingen, a town just over 30 km away from Spiegelberg.

The concept has taken two years to build and has required the support of multiple stakeholders.

Gantner, founder and CEO of PhilonMed GmbH, said, “We needed to have these three things come together, which is an endorsement by the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung, an endorsement by the Chamber of Physicians, and an endorsement by an insurer.

“It was really hard to find this all coming together in one state, also connected to a place where they are actually in need [of] all these kinds of solutions that we were trying to provide.”

Gantner has also receive support from other Sciana Members, including Friederike Botzenhardt, Lutz Hager, and Patrick Jahn.

Florian Burg, the project coordinator at PhilonMed GmbH, has helped lead the operation. He said the decision to push ahead with this concept was to maintain a familiar environment and reduce the likelihood of patients being left at home alone using tech gadgets to treat themselves.

Burg said, “It’s a typical setting as a doctor’s office as we know it. The only difference is that the doctor is not physically in front of you but is connected via a video conferencing solution.”

It’s hoped TeleMedicon will help fill existing gaps in health care for residents in both Zweiflingen and Spiegelberg. Burg said, “In those municipalities, we have a situation where there’s no family doctor presence, so people have to travel to the next biggest cities. That’s, let’s say, 15 km, and as we all know, public transport is not very well developed in these regions…

"Elderly people are left alone. They don’t have public transport. They don’t have relatives helping them. So, for them, it’s quite a challenge, especially in winter, when there are bad weather conditions to go from their home to the doctor’s office.”

Each practice will have a network of doctors taking care of medical issues. TeleMedicon will receive feedback from patients through questionnaires. They will also monitor treatment times and patient-reported medical outcomes.

Burg added, “The problem is universal. It’s not a special problem in Baden-Württemberg. It’s just in Baden-Württemberg we have the most supportive network… in terms of the organizations that we needed to make this project happen.”

When asked why this area of work is important, Gantner said, “I guess what Florian and I have in common is that we both come from rural areas of Germany, and our families and parents still live there… We see in our own families how the demise of access to medical care looks like right now… We see a paucity of doctors or medical care in the rural area. So, this is very close to our heart to actually give this a try and fix this problem as soon as possible…

"It’s a neglected area, and the monetary incentives are not in place for doctors and nurses to work in rural areas as of today, but maybe using technology – old and new technology – and using empowered professionals we can make this happen, and we can make a change here.”

Burg added, “It’s a huge challenge to get this up and running, given all the political and economical and legal circumstances that we have… I see it as a challenge to make this happen.”

For more information about TeleMedicon, please visit www.telemedicon.de

15.10.2019