Digitalizing healthcare in Europe : Which countries are leading the way in e-Health by Alcimed. Digitalisation des soins de santé en Europe : Quels pays montrent la voie de la e-santé par Alcimed.

Digitalizing healthcare in Europe : Which countries are leading the way in e-Health?

Digital solutions are present in almost every venue of our lives, making daily tasks easier. One key use of digital is e-Health, or digital health, which enables the faster and more comprehensive transmission of patient data and increases communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Many European countries have already adopted e-health. For instance, the International Benchmarking and Digital Health Index study classified Estonia, Denmark, and Spain as the best-performing countries in Europe for e-Health. Today, Alcimed invites you to explore e-health in these countries to think about which examples we can learn from them.

Estonia : Leading the e-Health in Europe ?

Each citizen has an online e-Health record, which integrates data from multiple healthcare providers to create a common record that can be easily accessed by both doctors and patients themselves.

Estonia is known as a good place for business thanks to its open-mindedness. In this country, it is possible to register a new company online, in just a few minutes. This advantage has attracted many tech entrepreneurs, including health care investors. As a result, today Estonia is at the top of the Digital Health Index with a value of 81.9 e-Health. Each citizen has an online e-Health record, which integrates data from multiple healthcare providers to create a common record that can be easily accessed by both doctors and patients themselves. It facilitates the work of HCPs, making diagnosis more agile and accurate. Additionally, Estonians can also enjoy services such as e-Prescription and e-Ambulance. For instance, the e-Prescription enables pharmacists to have online access to the patient’s information to issue the right medicine. Moreover, patients can virtually ask for repeated prescriptions, without having to go to hospitals or clinics. Equally efficient is the e-Ambulance, which detects the position of the person calling for help within less than 30 seconds, reducing ambulance arrival time. Also, on their way to the emergency, paramedics can have access to patient’s critical information, such as blood type, allergies, recent treatments, on-going medication, or pregnancy, allowing them to make decisions on the spot.

Denmark : the fertile ground for innovation in e-Health

Multiple digital services engage the patients to be more proactive in decisions regarding their health and improve health outcomes.

Denmark is recognized as the ‘’go-to’’ place for innovation. The country invests in talent and innovation while promoting good business, ethics, and trust. For a long time, Denmark was a pioneer in telehealth, and today e-Health is established, becoming a success. Every Danish patient enjoys the benefits of an electronic health record that can be accessed by him and his doctor. Additionally, multiple digital services engage the patients to be more proactive in decisions regarding their health and improve health outcomes. For instance, the Telecare North project established home care monitoring for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients. In the project, eleven affiliated municipalities, Aalborg University, and the general practitioners have cooperated in testing telemedicine for patients suffering from this disease. With telemedicine, patients were able to record and report data regarding their health conditions, and only if necessary, they would have to go to hospitals or visit a GP. Compared to the health care in Denmark (2008), this project has improved the quality of life of patients and reduced the number of hospitalizations by 11%. Likewise, thanks to the Virtual Hospital concept, women with pregnancy complications and preterm babies can be monitored at home. Additionally, patients with mental health problems can count on telepsychiatry, which provides flexible and easy access to evidence-based treatments and video consultations. As a result of their digital health strategy, hospitals in Denmark reduced the number of outpatient visits by 75%.

 Spain, one of the most efficient healthcare system

One of the main factors contributing to this feat is the Electronic Health Records (EHR) implemented more than 20 years ago in the country.

Spain is realproof that high quality doesn’t necessarily require a large investment, as the healthcare system was ranked as one of the most efficient in the world according to the Bloomberg Health-Efficiency Index (2018). One of the main factors contributing to this feat is the Electronic Health Records (EHR) implemented more than 20 years ago in the country. This system has improved communication between patients and HCPs and helped to speed up research by enhancing the ability to diagnose diseases and raise clinical accuracy and outcomes. Another key success factor for the digitalization of healthcare in the country, are the many startups present there. These businesses are mainly attracted by easy access to financing in the country, supported by foundations and private investors such as Bayer and Novartis. According to Barcelona & Catalonia Startup Hub, there are over a hundred startups focused on digital health in only Barcelona. For instance, Doctoralia is a well recongized digital platform born from a Spanish startup. The platform helps around 200 million users a year to find doctors and get appointments in 20 different countries.

Challenges for further development of e-Health

Despite all the progress being made, the digitization of healthcare systems still represents a big challenge for many countries. One of the biggest obstacles is the long regulatory process which digital tools and services must pass through before being finally approved. Thus, a clear framework and an effective strategy with political leadership are essential to advance digital transformation in healthcare. For HCPs, new tools and services will make it possible to improve patient care and offer more efficient treatments but for that to happen, society needs to play a fundamental role. For instance, patients must be willing to share their data and must also be engaged and motivated to participate in making decisions regarding their health.

Overall, the digitalization of healthcare is a long path with endless possibilities. The different applications and systems should bring benefits such as patients’ autonomy, better management of the patient pathway, and especially, improvement of the patients’ well-being. Estonia, Denmark, and Spain already started to run in this direction, using creative digital healthcare solutions to improve the life of patients and HCPs. These countries’ open-mindedness and support to business are common points that resulted in the success of e-health. Other countries could use them as benchmarks to overcome possible challenges related to regulations, political leadership, and patient engagement, and build new services for the future of healthcare.


About the author
Jessica
, Consultant in Alcimed’s Healthcare team in Belgium

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