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A regional recipe for mHealth

I’ve commented before that the USA has too often led the way in mHealth and digital health, but I was pleased to see a report this week that indicated signs of life in Europe, and possibly a pointer to how we can see repeatable success.

regional recipe for mHealth success

A quiet revolution

I was alerted to a short write-up by Accenture of a project they have been working on in the Basque region of Spain, where the long life expectancy leads to a growing number of older citizens with long-term conditions. Working with the local government, they’ve built a multi-channel platform for staff and patient support, incorporating innovative approaches like the use of Microsoft Kinect. As a result, 20% of all consultations now take place remotely. In addition, Accenture say that this project, along with 12 other initiatives, has prevented 52,000 hospital stays and €43M. This was all impressive but what really got me thinking was that this was a regional initiative amongst a population of around 2 million citizens, and I think there’s a pattern emerging here. As I said, Europe doesn’t have a general reputation for success in mHealth but in fact there are pockets of good practice:

  • In Catalonia, a semi-autonomous region of Spain the TicSalut Foundation reports progress on digital health such that more than half of hospitals say that they perform telediagnosis, 44% use teleconsultation and 13% telemonitoring.
  • Denmark, with 5.6M people, has benefited from a national strategy for telemedicine with strong local government implementation approaches.
  • In the Veneto region of Italy, with 4.9M inhabitants, electronic prescription is now the norm, alongside other eHealth initiatives.
  • In Scotland, ably led by Professor George Crooks, the government established the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare with an impressive range of projects published in their evidence database.
  • In Finland, an mHealth ecosystem has been established around Oulu with 48,000 patients using a digital self-care platform.
  • And even in England where I live, which has seemed such a laggard, we have regional initiatives such as the NHS Simple Telehealth ‘FLO’ platform which provides remote patient monitoring based on a simple SMS platform and is now in use by 50+ GP groups and hospitals in the Midlands.

What does this tell us?

I think what’s notable here is that there seems to be a sweet spot that defines these initiatives, in that they are all conducted with a target population of a few million, in areas where there is a good degree of local autonomy and great local leadership. Without a great deal of study, it looks like part of the recipe for success is that these projects are neither too small (lacking impact) or too big (becoming unwieldy). So there you have it – a ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ recipe for mHealth. Make sure your project is not too big or too small – somewhere in the middle is ‘just right’. What do you think – is a regional approach the way forward for Europe? Let me know, or you can always contact me.

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