“The sustainable advancement of telehealth is one that removes inequalities in healthcare”

“Pushing the boundaries in digital health should be done very cautiously until data security and the right skills are ensured,” said John Rayner (UK), Regional Director, EMEA, Analytics, HIMSS, who moderated the event ‘Telehealth adoption in Europe: The findings of the HIMSS e-Health Trendbarometer.‘ The latest HIMSS study confirms the technical readability to embrace telecare, but the actual digital maturity was verified in the first weeks of the pandemic.

The discussion led by John Rayner (UK), featured Jörg Studzinski, director of research and advisory services, Analytics HIMSS (Germany), Rahma Samow, SVP & global head of marketing, sales & communications, Digital Health at Siemens Healthineers (US), and Helena Dominguez, chief physician at Bispebjerg-Frederiksberg Hospital (Denmark).

Fast-track implementation

According to the HIMSS study conducted in January and February 2020, more than 90% of European providers who took part in the survey have already applied some telehealth solutions. The Nordics are leading in terms of adoption and use of telecare.  Although live-video consultations between physicians/nurses and patients hadn’t been widely used before COVID-19, technical foundations helped providers to leverage digital health immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic.

But how will such rapidly adopted digital innovations influence healthcare in the long run? “Technology and money are often there – it’s time to find a balance in areas like data utilisation and patient involvement. The culture must catch up,” commented Jörg Studzinski.

“It’s impossible” replaced by “go ahead” 

Although the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated telehealth adoption, providers still have to struggle with technical, financial, administrative, and cultural issues. The most remarkable progress has been made in regulations. “IT staff in hospitals is very restrictive in terms of data safety. Since we couldn’t do anything without telecare, there was a big mind-shift. Even our lawyers now give us the green light for solutions which previously were of great concern,” highlighted Helena Dominguez.

In her opinion, the IT system architecture deeply affects the acceptance of IT by clinicians. “Digital applications must be designed in dialogue with clinicians, not exclusively by engineers.” Helena Dominguez emphasised that some clinicians are still reluctant to see patients online, while nurses accept telecare if they see the benefits.

Back to best quality basics to remove inequalities

Rahma Samow has advocated for universal digitalisation that brings added-value, lowers costs and increases access to care. “We need to consolidate data to help physicians making the right decisions and focusing on patients,” she said. According to Samow, the future of health is digitalized, making data interoperable for the benefit of patient and enabling personalized healthcare. Digitalisation significantly improves chronic patients care: By implementing remote monitoring, they can now receive care even before they realise they would require it. Patients who need to confront their worries don’t have to be concerned about waiting times. Since homes become the point-of-care, the communication between physicians and patients is more partner-like. Siemens Healthineers’ expert noticed that it is particularly important to expand the IT infrastructure to ensure equal access to new digital services. Now, more than ever, patient-centric healthcare is much needed, without compromising on either outcome or data security.

“We have to stop thinking in silos. Patient care is not about separate primary care, secondary care, hospital care. Telehealth can contribute to making data accessible to different care team members,” concluded Helena Dominguez. It leads to patients’ empowerment and drives the system shift towards patient-reported outcomes and connected care strategies. 

Click here to register for the webinar or to download the HIMSS e-book ‘e-Health Trendbarometer on Telehealth Adoption in Europe prior to COVID-19.’


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