A start-up wants to make Covid-19’s infection routes traceable with sensors in shops and hotels. Anyone who installed the app and was in a place where there were also corona patients will be warned.

This lighthouse is no bigger than a smartphone and just as flat. Around 50 beacons have been hanging for a few weeks, that’s what the Bluetooth transmitters are called in technical jargon, in hotels, supermarkets and also in the spa management of the Baltic Sea resort of Ahrenshoop. They are intended to help you understand the chains of infection of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus. “The beacon itself is stupid and not a new invention,” says Oliver Miltner, 56, doctor and co-founder of the Berlin start-up Doctor Box. Such transmitters are also used to observe in stores which routes customers take, which shelves they stay in front of for longer, and which corners they avoid. And now they should help to understand the meeting places of corona-infected people.

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For the test run in Ahrenshoop, they had to register in the Doctor Box app. A so-called contact diary under menu item Covid 19 registers whether the user has passed a beacon. While the official Corona warning app is based on the communication between individual smartphones, the focus of the beacon concept is on public meeting places and thus the potential sources of infection.

“The transmitter itself does not save any personal data of the visitors. The lighthouse also does not know which ships have passed,” explains Miltner. If the health department reports that an infected person is in a place equipped with a beacon, the hotelier or dealer passes the message on to Doctor Box. The comparison with the contact books then runs via their server. Users who were there at the same time receive a message so that they can test whether they have contracted the infection.

A symptom diary can also be kept via the app. Symptoms known for Covid diseases such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, reduced taste and many others are queried. Test results can also be uploaded. “We started with that,” said Miltner. In a pilot project with the Munich Becker & Kollegen laboratory and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Bavaria, people who have been tested in the mobile station on Theresienwiese can have their findings transmitted electronically.

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The test with the beta version of the app in Ahrenshoop with around 2300 users has now been completed. There were no reports. However, the number of infections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is significantly smaller than in other federal states. Miltner announces that there will soon be an independent and open source version without registering with Doctor Box, so that companies can integrate the service into their own app.

Doctor Box is a digital health record in which users can load documents

As a target group for the beacons, Doctor Box has also identified around 19,000 pharmacies across Germany. Customers can then decide for themselves whether they want to use the Doctor Box app or another smartphone application with an integrated contact diary. There are already connections to the industry. The pharmacy service provider Noventi Health SE has been a partner since autumn, and has long been Mark Becker, owner of the Becker & Kollegen laboratory. Becker is owned by Wort und Bild Verlag, which publishes publications such as Pharmacy magazine appear. Miltner says that they are also in discussion with hotels and the medical device manufacturer Medi.

Doctor Box is actually a digital health record in which users can load documents, such as managing and remembering images of radiological examinations, medical appointments and medications, and keeping a pain diary. Miltner founded the company together with Stefan Heilmann in autumn 2016.

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Heilmann is head of the IEG Investment Banking Group and a seasoned investor. The so-called tombstones, glass trophies for successful deals, fill an entire sideboard in the IEG meeting room in West Berlin. Doctor Box also sits in the rooms. Miltner, orthopedist and trauma surgeon, runs a large practice in Berlin. He knows from his own experience that patients often come for treatment with “no or very incomplete findings”. He and Heilmann are friends. According to Miltner, they have raised more than two million euros since it was founded. According to their own statements, the founders still hold around half of the capital. Miltner does not want to give more details.

The Doctor Box app has been online since late 2017 / early 2018. Using the app costs nothing. “Doctor Box hasn’t made any money to date,” says Miltner. “Our investors are informed of the strategy, free of revenue until the end of 2020.”

Doctor Box is working on “fee-based value-added models”, such as video consultations or a second opinion portal. First of all, there should be a “healthy base” of users, by the end of 2020 there should be one million. Miltner does not want to give up practice. “It’s too much fun for me.”

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