Digital Health

“Best private healthcare insurance company app”: With passion to success

Only at the end of 2019, the DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung, the private German health insurance company, launched its own “Meine DKV” app, literally “My DKV”. And already over 250,000 DKV customers use “Meine DKV”. Recently, the computer magazine Chip presented the app with the “Best private health insurance company app” award. We talked to the product owners to find out who is responsible for the success in the background.

Rainer Asselborn and Uta Fröbel are responsible for the app. The two look back on the origin of the app in an interview. 

First and foremost: congratulations on receiving the “Best private health insurance company app” award. When and how did the development of the DKV app come about?

Rainer Asselborn: Let’s go right back to the start: we developed the very first app for DKV customers in 2010.

Back then, it was an app that enabled people to search for a medical practitioner. There were three versions of the app: for all goDentis dentists, for goMedus specialist medical practitioners, and another medical search app that included all consultant doctors. At that time, the DKV had a network of around 1,000 doctors with whom there were special contractually insured services for DKV customers. And that was our initial foray into the app environment.

Rainer Asselborn

We released the first version of the billing app in 2012. At the time, it was possible for outpatient medical bills to be sent to us via a printed QR code. This was facilitated by an IBM system, the Insurance Service Hub – which made it a little easier for us to read the receipt data in Payments Management, as it was possible to retrieve them electronically. The idea behind the app was that we no longer need the piece of paper, as the customer can read the QR codes and send them to us.

We added a photo function in 2016, which enabled us to read any kind of document. This means that the customer could photograph a prescription, an invoice or a treatment and cost plan, and send it to us. The data is then incorporated directly into the billing processes.

We then replaced this billing app with its successor, the “Health App”, in 2017. Apart from the receipt photo function, we also incorporated further services, including the option to create medication schedules or receive a reminder to take medication.

Uta Fröbel: I joined the team in 2017. The German Association of Private Health Insurance Providers (PKV) was working on the “eHealth” project at the time and we were essentially the “first mover”.

Rainer Asselborn: The health app introduced in 2017 was replaced by the current “Meine DKV” app in November 2019. At the time, we decided not to remain on the eHealth platform but switched to a more open standard developed by IBM as an electronic health record.

From our original idea, since 2012 we have always offered people the opportunity to submit their receipts to us digitally, and we have continued to improve these options. We have always added new functions to these apps. We are trying to make the “Meine DKV” app the central app for our customers.

And I believe that we have managed quite well so far. Users currently rate us an average of 4.6 out of a possible 5 stars in the stores. This means that we are truly well positioned in the market.

Uta Fröbel

Who is working in the background on the success of the app?

Uta Fröbel: Rainer Asselborn and I are the core team, we are the ones who look after it. Rainer Asselborn tends to be more technical and I tend to focus on the specialist departments. I also look after the support team – we have a great support team that takes care of customer needs and issues relating to the app. We receive technical support from ERGO Technology and Services with a Second Level Support team. This means that if technical problems occur, they will pitch up there and our colleagues will then ensure that any faults are corrected in consultation with IBM. 

I would like to highlight the support team once more. App customers have their own phone number and there are up to 30 people responding to calls. And then we have a special team within these 30 employees, which calls itself the “Super Supporters”. They specifically look after our ratings in the stores and comment on each review. We are really successful at that. It takes a lot of work, of course, but it also brings great benefits.

Rainer Asselborn: I recall a review where a customer only gave us one out of five stars because he said: “Your registration process is just stupid”. A support team member responded and the customer actually changed their rating from one star to three stars, saying: “I still think your registration process is stupid but I am totally impressed that you are bothered about it.”

At the outset, we invested a lot of time in know-how transfer. Our colleagues need to be very knowledgeable about the technical details of the app so that they, in turn, can help customers.

Uta Fröbel: And we are not just talking here about technical knowledge about the app, but also about how we actually talk to customers on social media. For instance, how do I write a response to a review, which is then visible to everyone. So we turned to our colleagues from the Social Media team in Düsseldorf who helped us with this. And yet, in spite of this, we were all so excited when our first comment went online… now it’s just normal, it’s everyday business. But we learned how important customer care is in app support as well.

Rainer Asselborn: I believe that the app is so successful because everyone involved with it is passionately committed to it and wants it to do really well. We really care if something doesn't work.



4.6 out of 5 stars is great, of course. If there is ever any criticism: what are people most likely to criticise?

Uta Fröbel: People are most critical about the time-consuming registration process. Then sometimes registration does not work because the transaction authentication number (TAN) has expired or the name does not match. From a customer's point of view, the registration process really is a little clunky. Otherwise, there is really no one issue that comes up again and again.

And why is the registration process so complicated?

Rainer Asselborn: When it comes to providing access to a person’s electronic health record, for example, of course we need to ensure that the person who registers is really the customer he or she claims to be. We have a two-stage process to ensure this in which we send the customer a one-off TAN by SMS text or letter. And, of course, that is annoying first and foremost – customers want to get started right away as soon as they have installed the app.

The same applies to issuing the password. Customers need to assign a complicated local code. However, these are requirements from the IT Security department, which are binding for us – unfortunately we have to impose this on our customers as well. We are providing the app as a tool for managing sensitive health information. And we all know that the more secure it is, the more inconvenient it unfortunately also is. But we are happy that we were able to retrofit the Face ID and Touch ID functions a year and a half ago. That was a feature that people asked for again and again. We spent a long time discussing whether this was sufficiently secure for our app until we got the nod from IBM: yes, it is adequately secure, we can provide it. There was a sigh of relief in many places.

Apart from the reviews, are there any customer surveys or market research relating to the app?

Uta Fröbel: We always survey customers when we call them. Our colleagues listen very carefully to what our customers have to say, record it, and pass it on to me. Our backlog is full of ideas and requests. And we very quickly see what really matters to customers. Apart from the stability and reliability of the app, they often comment on the design, which is also very important. And they are concerned about having processes that are understandable. Our customers want to understand what they are doing and what will then happen. When they submit a receipt, they want to see whether the document has arrived, what its status is, and when they can expect payment.

What's next? What new features are in the pipeline?

Rainer Asselborn: What we can say at this juncture is that there will be a new version of the app out soon. And apart from minor bug fixes, there will also be functions that have been developed in-house in our Digital Factory. Among others, there will be links to the “My Supplementary Insurance” portal, we will incorporate FAQs on submitting receipts, and will explicitly link to the ERGO blog. And we are still in discussions with colleagues from the Digital Factory and from the various specialist departments about how we can provide healthcare and care services. Next year, we will be working intensively on electronic patient medical records. That will definitely be a challenge.

Interview: Kristina Tewes