Structural trends like inequality, aging populations, systemic inefficiencies, and improving connectivity have reinforced the need for the adoption of technology in the healthcare sector. While the healthcare sector was slow to embrace the digital transformation offered by emerging technologies for many years, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for adoption of telemedicine and digital health globally.
Intergovernmental initiatives drive the digitisation of european healthcare
European countries face several health-related challenges, including aging populations, chronic diseases, unequal quality and access to healthcare services, and a shortage of health professionals. In Europe, digital health emerged as a strategic health priority well before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the crisis further accelerated its adoption across the block.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, public authorities have increasingly relied on the use of digital solutions such as telemedicine and contact tracing apps to facilitate virtual patient-doctor visits and monitor outbreaks. As the world returns to normal, Europe is building on the recent momentum to continue to digitalise healthcare across the region. The main objectives behind digitisation of healthcare are to secure access and exchange of health data across the EU, and pool health data for research and personalised medicine.
European digital health market
Telemedicine and Digital Health companies posted strong performances amid the pandemic, given the sector’s defensive nature and a surge in healthcare-related spending to combat Covid-19. The European market for digital healthcare is growing substantially, spurred by the expanding volume of data in healthcare, the need for fast and efficient processes and patients’ data accessibility. The Covid-19-pandemic in 2020 and the immense stress it has put on the European healthcare system have accelerated demand for Healthcare Information Technology (HCIT) solutions.
Covid-19 impact on telemedicine adoption in Europe
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine services were widely available in Europe, but centered around administrative meetings and trainings. The pandemic has shifted the adoption of telemedicine to clinical purposes with video consultations and distant monitoring, although from a low base. Europe t is the second largest market for telemedicine globally, behind the United States (US).
Before the pandemic, the use of digital health varied greatly across Europe, resulting in different stages of adoption between countries. For example, Spain and Italy rely on telemedicine for chronic disease management and medication therapy management, while the DACH region (i.e. Germany, Switzerland, and Austria) focused on acute telecare like personal alarms for the elderly. Nordic countries are the most advanced in terms of adoption digital health tools for prevention and mental health, but the United Kingdom (UK) telemedicine market is the largest in Europe.
Several obstacles to the increasing use of telemedicine in Europe include data security and privacy issues, lack of regulation, low public reimbursement, lack of awareness and poor connectivity in some rural areas. Each country adopts new regulations and laws to accommodate telemedicine, but the absence of a consistent global framework hinders the progress of healthcare innovation’s adoption. However, the Covid-19 crisis propelled the use of digital tools within existing frameworks such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
While the surge of demand for hardware and medical device manufacturers that has resulted from the pandemic is expected to be short-term, many telemedicine and digital health companies are likely to benefit both in the short- and long-term.
Telemedicine and Digital Health can expand access to healthcare by making it more geographically and financially accessible, presenting opportunities for large scale adoption in Europe and around the world. We believe that the benefits seen by patients, providers, and payers will continue to drive the overall adoption of these themes.
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