of EU5 physicians surveyed at the height of the initial wave of coronavirus cases (early-March through mid-April 2020) report having provided a virtual consultation in the past year.
up from 8% in 2017
However, adoption varies significantly across EU5 markets:
Those with previously-issued regulations (France, Italy, and Spain) have been able to meet the demand for telemedicine with relative ease (and regulatory rollbacks), leading to greater virtual consultation use.
Germany, with its stricter data protection and privacy standards and rigid statutory health insurance policies, has actually seen a drop in use of teleconsults since 2017; however, recent advancements in regulation around distance medicine shows promise for future adoption—for instance, as of Q2 2020, medical apps that are marked as low risk medical devices can apply for 'fast track' market entry, and HCPs will be reimbursed for services they deliver via green-lit, ‘fast tracked’ apps, including remote consultations.
The UK is rising to meet demand since NHS’s March guidance to transition GP appointments online, and providers are leveraging familiar remote communication tools, like accuRx, which debuted a built-in calling system in response to the pandemic.
The European Commission eHealth Action Plan envisioned a 2020 with widespread telemedicine adoption and distance medicine provision traversing boarders. Over the past decade, substantial effort has been dedicated to that aim but the lack of a harmonized legislative framework (with direct impact on liability, reimbursement and standards of care) have stymied uptake. The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled telemedicine services to the forefront of the EU healthcare landscape and hastened a surge in demand across Europe.
The primary barrier to virtual consultation adoption reported by EU5 physicians is a lack of virtual consultation offerings in physician practices. Secondary concerns include physician bandwidth limitations, possible diminishment of care, and liability risks. Interestingly, time needed to learn the technology did not register as a critical headwind, marking a lower barrier to entry for practices looking to implement or expand telemedicine services.
Patient reported use and interest in telemedicine by age: