Climedo’s digital symptom diary supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health
Interview with Veronika Schweighart by Anne Christin Braun
In recent years, Climedo set out to make clinical data capture easier and more efficient. Anybody working in MedTech, pharma or research will agree that there is an incredible need and market to accelerate and improve the collection and management of useful data to make informed decisions. That’s why the Climedo team, together with the Charité in Berlin decided to develop a clinical data capture platform, which, among other things, will help companies to comply with relevant regulations such as the EU MDR and IVDR.
In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, Climedo decided to provide its platform free of charge for certain COVID-19 related research projects. Moreover, they developed a symptom diary that can help track the symptoms of COVID-19 contact persons. In order to make this happen, they partnered with the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) as well as software company SAS.
Given the amount of news with our ZOLLHOF alumni startup, we had quite some questions for the team and are happy that Veronika Schweighart, Co-Founder and COO of Climedo, took the time to answer them.
You developed a COVID-19 symptom diary. Who benefits from it and how does it work?
The diary is a web-based platform that helps to support affected people and local health authorities when contact persons of COVID-19 patients are sent into quarantine. While, at the moment, authorities call in twice a day to check the health status, patients will now have the possibility to securely submit information on their wellbeing and potential symptoms as part of the symptom diary — on a voluntary basis.
How did the collaboration between Climedo, the Federal Ministry of Health and SAS happen?
In the context of the Coronavirus pandemic, the need for digital support systems to monitor symptoms became clear to German health authorities. For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Health conducted a market analysis, which ultimately resulted in the symptom diary that is now being pursued. Climedo and SAS are developing the project as equal partners.
How does the timetable look like? Which steps will be next?
An initial, final release of the solution is currently being developed. Broader availability is planned upon completion of the data protection law tests and the existence of a final penetration test of the Federal Office for Information Security and is to take place in the next few weeks.
Which data security implications are there? How can you make sure that people trust the application?
In principle, the data is secured and encrypted with state-of-the-art technology both in transmission and storage. In addition, the BSI has already carried out an in-depth technical examination of data security in order to ensure compliance with these highest security standards. Furthermore, no data is used in analytical data processing or analyses are carried out that would allow conclusions to be drawn about the identity of individual citizens.
Why do you think Germany is struggling more to push the digitization of healthcare than other countries?
Data protection in Germany is better than in most other countries in the world. Since the healthcare sector deals a lot with private and confidential data, it’s even more key to protect citizens and their information. That’s why a lot of authorities still work with analog systems such as fax or letters — up until now this simply was the most secure option. Yet, modern digital solutions can provide even more security, especially when they are developed and hosted in Germany. But of course, you have to foster an openness and be willing to train staff accordingly. Luckily, modern tools are very user friendly and don’t require installation or programming skills.
Digital transformation is going to reach Germany’s healthcare sector sooner or later, just as it did in sectors such as banking or retail. We have a window of opportunity to be a part of the decision on how exactly this will take place. The risk of losing against international players like Amazon, Apple or Google is very high at the moment. Personally, I’d prefer to have my data stored here in Germany rather than somewhere abroad. Political representatives also have a responsibility to remove blockers and hurdles, e.g. when it comes to data security and data sovereignty, so that digital health applications can be rolled out extensively.
Looking three years ahead: Which digital technologies will have been established in healthcare?
- Telemedicine: With COVID-19 we have seen how fast digital transformation can happen — if there is enough pressure. Even now there are many doctors who offer remote consultations. With accompanying solutions like our symptom diary, patients are additionally supported and integrated.
- ePRO solutions (“electronic Patient Reported Outcomes”): The increasing digitalization of the healthcare sector and the demand for higher efficiency when it comes to data collection, as well as automated and integrated workflows in clinical trials, are driving forces for market growth in this sector.
- AI: Clinical trials that usually take months or years can be accelerated and automated to a large extent thanks to smart algorithms. We also see more and more startups entering the medical sector and boosting research with their solutions. Partnerships between corporates and startups can foster valuable synergies and competitive advantages for both sides.
The most important question comes last: Your summer holiday 2020 — yes, no, maybe?
At the moment everything is up in the air, so I’d go with a “maybe”. Hopefully, we’ll know more by the end of July. Fingers crossed!
Anne is ZOLLHOF’s Senior Marketing Manager. She has many years of experience in tech communications and PR. When she’s not at ZOLLHOF, Anne is working on her Master’s degree in Health Sciences and supports an NGO as their Social Media Manager.