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News 01.03.2018

Buddy Healthcare and UKSH pilot project

The BuddyCare app, developed in cooperation with the university hospitals of Helsinki and Oulu,is designed for hospitals to communicate effectively with patients who are preparing for or recovering from surgery.

One short pitch by Buddy Healthcare was enough to set in motion a promising pilot project in Germany, where the Finnish digital health startup participated in a two-day visit organised by Finpro in September 2017. The BuddyCare app, developed in cooperation with the university hospitals of Helsinki and Oulu,is designed for hospitals to communicate effectively with patients who are preparing for or recovering from surgery.

“Schleswig-Holstein’s University Clinic with Locations in Kiel and Lübeck (UKSH), signalled immediate interest in our solution and just three months later we signed an agreement for a pilot project to test the app with patients undergoing bariatric surgery,” says Jussi Määttä, CEO, Buddy Healthcare.

The app can be used to deliver different kinds of information such as reminders, questionnaires and patient education, including photos and videos. It also enables better care coordination and data collection to monitor a patient’s recovery process.

“In Finland, the app has mainly been used with pediatric and orthopaedic patients, so it is interesting for us to learn from the bariatric surgery process which involves a very long preparation period.”

Pilot also represents strategic opportunity

Digital healthcare solutions are currently a hot topic in Germany and UKSH has been a forerunner by launching its own innovation app, the first in a German university hospital, according to Dr. Christian Elsner, UKSH. The hospital’s surgeons quickly recognised BuddyCare’s potential for boosting patient compliance to treatment, reducing cancellations and administrative work, and improving care quality and patient recovery.

“We really liked the idea of having a flexible authoring system and how it enables doctors to decide their own workflows. Our surgeons see a lot of potential in intersectoral communication for reducing the number of non-compliant patients. Several other UKSH departments are also keen to try it,” says Elsner.

UKSH also views the pilot project as a possibility to develop a wider, joint strategy with Buddy Healthcare to enter the German market.

“Many German hospitals are now thinking about doing their own apps, so I think that this is a good opportunity. Perhaps we can build an approach where hospitals can provide or sell their workflows to other clinics and hospitals, just like an iTunes Store,” says Elsner.

Ideal time to enter the German market

Germany is clearly behind Finland in coordinated digitalization efforts in the health sector, according to Christine Grumbach, Senior Business Developer, EurAsiaGrowth. The German healthcare system is also more fragmented. The regulatory environment is complex because all 16 German states have their own data protection laws.

“Finland is considered as one of the leading countries in having high-quality and comprehensive health data in a digital format. Unlike Finland, Germany does not have the wide range of nationwide registries, tracking data and analytics on various health issues that enable the provision of efficient cross-sectoral health services,” says Grumbach.

“There is now good business potential for Finnish companies, especially in the areas of electronic patient records, patient processes, software-based drug prescription, and solutions for easier access to the findings and data of family physicians.”

Digital tools from Finland

Finnish companies can be partners in proposals made to the German Innovation Fund which annually invests EUR 300 million in new care models and to improve healthcare processes. The German mobile health market has been growing at a CAGR of about 22% over the past five years and was estimated to total about EUR 3 billion in 2017.

Dr. Christian Elsner is already looking forward to UKSH expanding its cooperation with Finnish digital health companies.

“In Germany there are many things we can learn from Finland. At UKSH, we have the Innovation Hub and we are interested in both the scientific and business part of it – making our hospitals more efficient but also marketing the tools that we use. I think that Finnish knowledge and digital tools from Finland represents a good marketing angle,” he says.

Lessons for approaching the German market

Finland’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen will lead a Business Finland delegation to Germany on 17-19 April 2018 to deepen the collaboration between UKSH and Finnish healthcare innovation communities and will also enter as partner in Europe´s biggest Healthcare Hackathon located in Kiel on September 13th to 15th 2018 . The delegation will also participate in the Connecting Healthcare IT (conhIT) event in Berlin.

Germany has the reputation for being one of the toughest markets to enter in Europe.  Buddy Healthcare has already proved that with the right approach, big opportunities can quickly open up for small Finnish startups.

“If you can sell your product or solution and develop a business model that works in Germany, then I strongly believe that it’s also going to work in any other European country,” says Jussi Määttä.

“The fact that Finpro already knew the potential customers in Germany definitely helped to create trust during our visit in September 2017. Another crucial factor was that we already had a highly qualified and experienced German consultant who could take the project forward, and is able to communicate with the German parties better than I ever could.”

For Christine Grumbach, Buddy Healthcare’s experience is a good example of how to demonstrate the competence of Finnish companies when approaching the German market.

“The BuddyCare app is very well productized and it’s easy to understand how it can improve patient satisfaction and the hospital’s performance. By recruiting a German salesman Buddy Healthcare has also shown commitment towards the market, which I think is important as a serious supplier.”

More information: eero.toivainen(a)