The company “APST” (Ambulanzpartner Soziotechnologie) faces one of the central challenges of digitalization. Their mix of social and digital services solves a common conflict and raises the quality of care for the individual patient while avoiding to raise costs for the patients or the healthcare system.
What does APST do exactly?
Patients who go to the doctor usually receive a prescription for medication that they have to pick up at a pharmacy. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple for patients with chronic neurological illnesses. If they need specific aids (for example a wheelchair), they have to start a more complex process: Find the right medical supply store that’s specialized in exactly those aids, request the healthcare provider to cover the costs and communicate with them in case they refuse. Even heavily handicapped patients are expected to complete all these tasks. Oftentimes, these bureaucratic obstacles are too challenging for these patients.
That’s why two neurologists from the hospital Charité Berlin founded the patient care platform “APST”. It’s their mission to support and continually optimize the communication- and care processes between participating experts socially and digitally. It all started when Prof. Dr. Thomas Meyer and Prof. Dr. Christoph Münch reacted to a need of their patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which they’re specialized in. Patients with this diagnosis can’t be healed, but appropriate treatments can increase and keep their quality of life. As an independent partner supporting patients, APST takes a rare role in the German healthcare system: they take over coordination of the outpatient treatments instead of the patients themselves.
The APST coordinators guide their patients throughout their illness, organizing efficient and high-quality care in the form of assistive technology devices, nutritional support as well as medication. Additionally to these aids, ALS patients require a complex interplay between doctors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, respiratory pediatricians, speech therapists, and other specialists. The digital platform supports and documents this coordination effort.
How does the business model work?
The business model is inter alia based on a prorated compensation for each successful care transaction, paid by the care providers. This reflects the strong focus on patients who require intense care processes. The incentive for providers to participate lies in a savings effect: consultations take less time and therefore cost less with long-term patients compared to patients who visit once for medication or walking frames.
With a focus on this transaction-based model, there is a lower risk of participation. At the same time there are no additional costs for the healthcare system, even with an additional stakeholder that adds value.
What was the platform’s development?
APST was already founded in 2009. Since then, the biggest changes happened in three main areas:
Expansion of coverage: The range of products and services in the network has been drastically expanded. In the beginning, APST offered only the supply with assistive technology devices like wheelchairs and orthoses. After some time, patients were supported in more and more areas of care through the coordinators, like occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, nutritional support, and medication.
Geographic expansion:The services also got accessible to a much bigger geographic region. At the start, only care providers and patients in Berlin and Brandenburg were connected, now the network is available in all of Germany.
Expansion of target group: First, the platform only focused on patients with ALS. Later on, it also included patients with other neurological illnesses, such as patients who suffered a stroke, have multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. Medical care for all of these patients is relatively complex, so the APST services represent much-needed support.
Which further digital steps are planned?
Several coordinators are responsible for the selection of the appropriate care providers. To be able to provide the best care for their patients, they require in-depth knowledge about the network. For example, some medical supply stores might have expert knowledge about electric wheelchairs. Others might not have a contract with the healthcare provider for a specific medical aid or only serve a certain geographic radius.
These decisions around the best care provider for a patient need to be based on all these criteria. That’s why APST plans to implement more data on their platform so the coordinators can see a fully automated pre-selection of care providers. This update will ensure a steady level of quality as well as relieve the workload of the coordinators.
Whenever a partner fulfilled a patient care assignment, relevant data concerning the patient and the treatment process has to be transmitted, for example for the settlement with the health insurance.
For the care provider, it would be much more efficient to transfer the already existing data in the APST platform to their systems, so any updates can be tracked in real-time.
At the same time, APST coordinators would profit from the care provider’s real-time data to make the right decision when selecting the best partner (for example based on qualifications, availability and delivery times). This would also lead to a quicker and higher quality care.
What impact does APST have?
Especially in the German healthcare system, the challenge lies between the increase in quality of care and the rising costs for the general public. The quality of care is increased by APST with an individualized and personalized service for the patient, but also through increased quality of care by doctors. Cost neutrality is achieved by increased efficiency for everyone involved:
Individualization and personalization for patients
To accompany a patient throughout his treatments with coordination and matching of their individual needs with a variety of care providers is a very unique benefit in the German healthcare system. Through this platform, patients receive more individual and personalized services. Additionally, patients can influence their treatments with reviews and ratings of their treatments.
Increase in doctor’s quality of care
The platform allows doctors to see which medical aids and treatments have been used since the last appointment. They can much more easily make informed decisions with minimal time investments. Overall this leaves more time to focus on the medical consultation, the diagnosis and therapy instead of worrying about the quality of the treatment and the coordination.
Increase of efficiency for providers
Thanks to the elaborate interplay with APST, medical supply stores can count on high quality and complete treatment request data. This relieves them of a big part of the evaluation of their patients and they can provide better adjusted medical aids.