[Doctors 2.0] Online Second Opinion Verifies the Need for a Surgical Operation

By June 26, 2014
Keywords : e-Health, e-health, Medexo, Europe

Medexo offers a patient seeking a second opinion a confirmation, or otherwise, that s/he really needs surgical intervention. This second medical opinion is given online on the basis of answers to a questionnaire, plus the medical file.

Berlin-based startup Medexo was runner-up in the start-up contest at the Doctors 2.0 & You event held on 5-6 June in Paris. Medexo, short for Medizinische Experten Online – i.e. 'Medical Experts Online', provides a platform which offers patients a second medical opinion. The company’s founders had noticed that all too often, surgical operations taking place in Germany were actually unnecessary and that a standard second opinion from another physician could help reduce the number of superfluous or inappropriate surgical procedures being performed. Founded in 2012, the startup can call on a panel of health experts to give their advice over the Internet. Thus there is no face-to-face consultation. The patient-specialist relationship is entirely digital and the patient can decide whether or not take into account the second, virtual, analysis which s/he receives. According to Medexo, second opinions show that in an astonishing 66% of cases, the first recommendation in favour of surgical intervention is found not to be appropriate.

Winning over the medical profession

At the moment Medexo is able to call on a network of over 60 medical specialists to respond to patients' questions. One of the founders, Jan-Christoph Loh, explained to the Doctors 2.0 audience that after two years the concept has finally gained acceptance. "The fact was that in the beginning, it was difficult to get specialists to work with us because the physician community in Germany didn’t approve at all." They suspected that the panel might work against them or undermine their work. But given the social and political pressures to ensure high quality diagnosis, they ended up realising that a confirmation – or even the opposite – by one of their peers could only be beneficial. In fact surgeons working in the German health system are paid according to the number of interventions they carry out, which might encourage them to perform as many operations as possible and could lead to cases of abuse. The service which Medexo offers is reimbursed by seven German health insurance companies. Those patients who are not covered are billed for the service at a price which can run to a maximum of €400 for an analysis completed within a week.

Simplifying the decision, ensuring data security

Thus with Medexo, a patient can obtain different opinions and find reassurance regarding the operation s/he is about to undergo. Instead of going to consult a second specialist face-to-face, "the online approach ensures a certain degree of objectivity and independence in the opinions given. It is done in a friendly manner and does not bear the imprint of the relationship which the original doctor has with his/her patient," underlines Loh. People wishing to use the service just need to connect to the website and fill in a questionnaire, which asks patients about their medical antecedents. Nothing complicated, however, Loh assured us. For extra security Medexo also collects the full medical file from the patient’s General Practitioner, plus his/her recommendations. Results of analyses and examinations such as MRIs complete the file. As regards confidentiality, the startup’s founders state that they comply with the legal provisions in force and put patients’ minds at rest by using a secure Internet connection throughout the information transfer process.

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