Digital health has played a large role in addressing the pandemic across Western Europe. Though there are still significant differences across Western Europe’s top healthcare markets when it comes to the design and development of digital health policies, a key determinant that can help to improve patient outcomes while lowering systemic costs.
As we exit the pandemic, leading countries in Western Europe will need to revisit their overarching policy framework when it comes to digital health. Our analysis in our recent WEUR Digital Health Policy Readiness Index can help companies assess the current environment and identify opportunities to collaborate with key stakeholders across these systems to accelerate the needed changes to facilitate sustainable adoption of digital health solutions across the continent.
Digital Health Policy Components
FrontierView measures digital heath policy readiness by looking at the development of six key pillars. Governments need to adequately develop all six pillars together to create a strong base for continued improvement in patient access on top of a foundation of digital healthcare.
- Digital Healthcare Strategy – Governments need a strong overarching strategy to lead the digital transformation of their public and private healthcare sectors.
- Interoperability Policy – Most countries have a fragmented healthcare system, so policies that address the ability of clinical and non-clinical data to be interoperable are a key pillar of digital health policy.
- Telehealth Policy – The pandemic accelerated the use of telehealth services, but governments must expand these efforts to be used beyond the pandemic, and beyond a limited number of diseases.
- Healthcare Data Protection Policy – The increase in data collection, sharing and utilization, means governments must ensure strong rules for protection and responsibility, while allowing the data to be leveraged.
- Electronic Records Policy – Government policy for the design of Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Measuring Record (EMR) systems is key to providing access to patient data.
- Digital Health Body in Government – Digital healthcare will become an increasingly important part of healthcare over the next decades, so governments will need to form new bodies to respond to the adapting environment.
Digital Health Strategies
France is demonstrating the most robust strategies of the major markets in Europe and is especially advanced in its Digital Health Strategy. In addition to a regularly updated, comprehensive technical doctrine, France has a highly organized group whose sole purpose is to implement the extensive aspects of the digital health plan. We see slight pitfalls, however, in the lack of explicit financial resources tied to each of the objectives. Despite this, firms should anticipate limited policy barriers to co-designing new digital solutions alongside France’s thorough approach for digitalizing its health system.
Germany is relatively advanced in its overarching digital health strategy. Strengths lie in its inclusion of specific funding, organized objectives, and clearly outlined financial incentives. Weaknesses, however, lie in the lack of one, all-encompassing plan. While most of the information falls under the Digital Care Law, the Digital Supply Law and Drug and Safety Act also contain pertinent components of the strategy.
Italy is advanced in plans for digitalizing the public sector overall, though it lacks a recent, comprehensive plan specifically dedicated to digital health. The Three-Year Plan for ICT in the Public Administration 2019–2021 includes a subsection dedicated to the healthcare ecosystem with details on the implementation of an electronic health record, interoperability, and telehealth, but its telemedicine plan serves to be more comprehensive in terms of health.
The United Kingdom does have a plan solely dedicated to the implementation of digital health, though the Health and Social Care Information Center Strategy plan for 2015 – 2020 is outdated, as it was due to be implemented by 2020. With the ongoing pandemic, the full implementation of the plans has not been realized. However, the long term health plan released in 2019 also contains a digital health component.
The United Kingdom is relatively advanced in its digital health strategy. Its plan dedicated solely to the implementation of digital health, the Health and Social Care Information Center Strategy Plan for 2015–2020, is relatively outdated, as the objectives’ deadlines are “by 2020”. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, complete implementation of these plans has failed to materialize. However, the general, long-term health plan released in 2019 also has a digital health component.
Read our WEUR Digital Health Policy Readiness Index to learn more about how these major healthcare markets are implementing their Digital Health Policies.
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