MedTech Europe is calling for regulators to retain temporary policies that improve access to digital health once the COVID-19 crisis abates.
Faced with the pandemic, European regulators and governments cleared barriers to digital health products and services such as telemedicine, for example, by temporarily expanding reimbursement. In a paper on the lessons of COVID-19, trade group MedTech Europe pushed for the retention of the measures and adoption of other actions to support digital health.
Other recommendations include calls for the European Union to find the right mechanisms to incentivize digital health and advance existing efforts to facilitate the use of health data.
The need to limit travel and face-to-face interactions during the pandemic led EU countries to step up their use of digital health products and services. MedTech Europe quoted a German report that found doctors in the country held 1.2 million hours of video consultations in the second quarter of 2020, up from 583 hours in the same quarter of 2019.
Equally, many European citizens have voluntarily shared personal data through apps designed to track COVID-19 contacts and symptoms. The apps have met with some resistance but still been widely downloaded, with 6 million people installing the U.K.’s product on the day it went live.
MedTech Europe sees the experience of integrating digital health into healthcare systems in the EU during the pandemic as a launchpad for the continued, post-crisis modernization in the delivery of care. The trade group made four recommendations for how the EU can act to ensure digital health contributes to the recovery of the region.
The first recommendation is to build on the momentum COVID-19 gave to digital health. Specifically, MedTech Europe wants EU governments to maintain and build on measures taken in response to the pandemic, such as greater support for telemedicine. MedTech Europe argued returning to the old ways of working “would be detrimental for patients, HCPs and healthcare systems.”
In a related recommendation, MedTech Europe asked the EU to consider incentives and reimbursement for digital health. MedTech Europe wants EU countries to exchange best practices to support the digital health space.
Other recommendations include the continued advancement of initiatives such as the European Health Data Space that MedTech Europe argues can address the “legal, technical, commercial and socio-cultural and skills barriers” that affected digital health use and data sharing before the crisis. Finally, MedTech Europe called for the EU to create new models for developing and deploying AI and pointed to its 2020 report on the technology for more detailed recommendations.