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Home » Future of Healthcare » How do EMEA countries compare in digital health technology adoption?

Gwynne Morley

General Manager, IQVIA

Aurelio Arias

Engagement Manager, IQVIA

A new study examines the role of digital technology in health systems across countries and explores success factors and areas that need improvement.

The role of digital technologies in health systems has deep roots: from the early development of structured medical records through to telemedicine, which was so vital in continuing healthcare operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the adoption of digital technologies has not been uniform across countries.

IQVIA examined the state of digital health across EMEA, creating a maturity framework comprised of 12 elements that accounted for the wide-ranging nature of digital activities in health systems.

Figure 1: Digital Health System Maturity Scores

The 12 scored elements were grouped into three categories:  

  • Initiatives (policy, funding, data governance, institutions) measures the foundations from which a country can begin its digital journey.
  • Infrastructure (electronic health records [EHRs], data standards, omics, interoperability) examines how a country creates a backbone of interconnected systems and high-grade data.
  • Implementations (telehealth, artificial intelligence, information use, virtual studies) captures a country’s ability to abstract the data to make a real impact in population health management.

The highest GDP per capita nations, Switzerland and Ireland, are outliers in terms of low digital maturity relative to GDPR per capita.

Outcomes of the study

We observed a positive correlation between the maturity score and GDP per capita, implying that richer nations score higher due to the resources at their disposal. Large scale digitisation requires strong cultural, political, economic and regulatory foundations.

Estonia, England, Sweden and Denmark are the largest positive outliers in the study. We identified the elements that have set them apart are wide-scale national genomic programmes, advances in decentralised trials and the use of national health data to make evidence-backed decisions.

Areas of increased focus

The highest GDP per capita nations, Switzerland and Ireland, are outliers in terms of low digital maturity relative to GDPR per capita. The reason for the lower scores for these two countries revolve around underdeveloped EHR networks. In Ireland, this is also coupled with its exceptionally high GDP growth driven by a low tax environment attracting many large multinational corporations.

Neither country has rolled out state-of-the-art projects such as the whole genome sequencing of large parts of their population, use of artificial intelligence at a national level or running large decentralised clinical trials.

The ever increasing burden of demand on health systems, addressed by limited resources with little or no growth, makes continued digital expansion an attractive proposition to generate savings by driving large efficiencies at scale. However, the real excitement comes from the promise to provide superior population health management from better data and deeper insight, for example by improving patient outcomes and avoiding later complications.

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