7 Questions: Jörg Land on the first reimbursed mobile app in Germany
Jörg Land talks about the approval process for a new app technology for treating tinnitus, the first ever to be reimbursed in Germany
1. What kind of medical technology is Tinnitracks?
Tinnitracks is a certified medical solution for the treatment of tinnitus. It applies an algorithm that can transform the music patients are listening to into a neuro-acoustic therapy, which has been proven in clinical trials. It works by filtering the patient’s individual tinnitus frequency from the music, which is precisely analysed for suitability beforehand. This process reduces the stimulus for the hyperactive nerve cells, and thereby noticeably reducing the perceived volume of the tinnitus. I believe our new, self-administered therapy could help millions of patients in the European Union affected by tinnitus.
2. There has been a lot of disenchantment about medical and health apps because of hype and disappointing functionality. How do you overcome this?
Right from the start Tinnitracks was developed as a medical device. The fact that it is based on scientific research, including clinical trials, certainly helped too. Moreover, Tinnitracks was designed to integrate seamlessly into the existing health system, involving Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctors, acousticians and insurance companies. We stress that you need to see an ENT doctor for diagnosis and tinnitus frequency matching. We also have a partnership with the well-known headphone manufacturer Sennheiser, which sets Tinnitracks apart from the average health app.
3. You have secured reimbursement in Germany for Tinnitracks via the largest health insurer. Presumably their evaluation process wasn’t set up for your kind of technology, so how did you arrive at a positive decision?
The team at Techniker Krankenkasse was very experienced. The evaluation process is tough but, in terms of digital solutions, they had already anticipated many issues and came up with sound solutions. Thus we only had a few technical questions to answer. I believe the fact that Tinnitracks became the first reimbursed mobile app in Germany was based on these factors: it is a certified medical device; it gives access to a real treatment that is prescribed by a physician; we have some momentum behind what we are doing, plus we have a trusted partnership with the headphone manufacturer, which demonstrates careful handling of other brands.
4. Do you think traditional pharma and medical device companies see you as major competition?
Since Tinnitracks is not a pharmaceutical treatment, the pharma companies do not see us as a competitor – the opposite is true, in fact. For example, recently Bayer invited me to do a workshop and present at their demo day in Berlin. Medical device companies – in this case hearing aid manufacturers – see us as a player who extends the market. They want to enter the tinnitus field and thus our promising and easy-to-use solution is of interest to them. We benefit from competition since it gives us extra visibility and demonstrates that our work makes a difference.
5. What do you think healthcare will be like in 2030?
It is very hard to tell – I cannot even predict what will happen in the next five years! Overall, I am sure that digitalisation will help to individualise healthcare. We track all those data, take advantage of proven process innovation from e-commerce and tech costs are decreasing (e.g. for sensors). Big data is also a buzzword and analysing a huge amount of data and connecting data sources that have not been connected before will lead to new insights. I see a bright future for those who drive this change. 3D-printing, robotics and telemedicine will also transform healthcare, but I certainly cannot tell how fast or to what extent.
6. What person, thing, or problem would you like to wish away?
In general, people who do not play fair and are not open to dialogue. There is some tension between existing stakeholders and innovators, which is often coupled with fear of losing revenues. I definitely do not wish anyone away, but a change in attitude might be a move in the right direction.
A general challenge is that many processes in the health market are not yet ready for the efficiency of modern technology. Many processes are still manual and do not improve the product in any way. But I am convinced that our work will help to shape these processes and make them more efficient.
7. Conversely, what or who provides you with inspiration?
Working with very smart people inspires me every day!
About the interviewee:
Jörg Land is founder and CEO of Hamburg-based Sonormed GmbH, the developer and provider of Tinnitracks, an award-winning digital medical technology for the treatment of tinnitus. He has many years of experience in mobile and online technology and has worked for NOKIA, OTTO and the Bertelsmann Group. He holds a degree in European Business Studies.
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