Apps on prescription: examples of content and benefits

Health apps and web applications available on prescription can complement the treatment of a wide range of diseases and health conditions. They support patients, for example by improving their understanding of the condition and helping to alleviate symptoms.

At a glance

  • Digital health applications (DiGA) are health apps and web applications that are available on prescription.
  • They support the treatment of various physical and mental health conditions.
  • For example, they are used in relation to diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, harmful alcohol consumption, cancer, obesity (severe overweight) and migraines.
  • Most DiGA provide basic information about the health condition.
  • Patients can usually also enter information, for example about the appearance of symptoms.
  • In addition, many apps provide customized feedback, exercises and analyses.
Seated man smiling and operating a tablet.

What are apps on prescription?

Digital health applications (DiGA) – also known as apps on prescription or health apps – are mobile apps or web applications that can be prescribed for medical purposes.

Apps on prescription are used to treat migraines, cancer, harmful alcohol consumption or alcohol dependence and sleep disorders, for example. This article provides several examples of what such apps can do.

All currently approved apps available on prescription can be found in the DiGA directory compiled by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).

What are the benefits of an app for the treatment of migraines?

Using a digital health application (DiGA) to support migraine treatment can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and improve people’s quality of life. This is achieved by patients keeping a “headache diary” in the app and entering possible migraine triggers, among other things.

Using a DiGA to support treatment of a migraine can reduce migraine attacks.

Based on the entries, the app offers customized information and tips on how to deal with the migraine. This makes it possible to specifically avoid triggers such as certain foods, stress and too much or too little sleep.

In many cases, additional lifestyle tips also help to reduce the frequency and intensity of the migraines as well as the need for medication. For example, the app can motivate people to do some endurance sport or relaxation exercises or to structure their day better.

How can an app support cancer treatment?

A digital health application (DiGA) to support cancer treatment offers patients understandable information about their individual symptoms. This information can then be used to help make health-related decisions. 

Patients document symptoms such as nausea or sleep disturbances in the app, which subsequently provides behavioral recommendations. Patients can use these recommendations, for example, to determine how urgently they need to consult their doctor about the symptoms they have observed.

How can an app help with harmful alcohol consumption?

A digital health application (DiGA) for alcohol aims to help patients who consume harmful amounts of alcohol or suffer from alcohol dependence to reduce or stop their alcohol consumption. This is done by first clarifying patients’ personal goals and providing information about alcohol. The app then aims to motivate users to make changes and increase their confidence in their own abilities. This can help shape their drinking behavior in line with their wishes.

For this purpose, users enter into a personalized dialog with the app content. The app looks at or goes into further detail about specific topics or areas based on the users’ answers, interests and wishes. Users’ doubts and concerns are taken into account and accepted. Furthermore, the app helps motivate users to define and commit to specific targets for reducing their alcohol consumption.

How can an app help treat sleep disorders?

A digital health application (DiGA) to treat sleep disorders helps patients to fall asleep or stay asleep better, or to avoid waking up too early. It starts by using an intelligent sleep diary to clarify the problem. The sleep times can then be optimized based on the diary entries.

Using a DiGA to treat sleep disorders can help people to fall asleep or stay asleep better, or avoid waking up too early.

Techniques for dealing with persistent thoughts that stop people from sleeping are taught and practiced. A “digital sleep expert” offers assistance in this regard. The targeted use of relaxation techniques makes it possible to track personal sleep targets. Fitness trackers for sleep analysis can also be optionally incorporated into the apps.

Which app on prescription is right for you?

A digital health application (DiGA) could help you if it has been developed for a health condition that you have been diagnosed with. However, there are also reasons why DiGA should not be used in certain situations. You should ideally decide whether or not to use a DiGA in cooperation with your doctor or psychotherapist.

You can gain access to a DiGA if it is prescribed for you by a doctor or psychotherapist. Alternatively, you can apply directly to your health insurance provider to use the DiGA, submitting a document certifying the relevant diagnosis.

If several DiGA are available for the health condition with which you have been diagnosed, the content of the apps can be compared in the DiGA directory. You can then work with your doctor to determine which DiGA best suits your needs.

Where can I find more information about apps on prescription?

If you have any questions about access to a DiGA or its approval, use and security, please read the introductory article Digital health applications (DiGA): apps on prescription.

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