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The medical world has reached its first unanimous consensus: our health systems are overburdened. Yet, our solutions have been somewhat standard and unimaginative, circling around ‘we need to hire more people’.

This article is published in collaboration with Roche and written by Valentin Bejan (Health Tech Hub Copenhagen) and Andreas Pihl (Roche).

A global zero-sum game and unsustainable as single solution. The shortage of healthcare staff is ever increasing globally while the professional appeal is slowly decreasing. In 2022 alone, in Denmark the enrollment in nursing studies fell by 18% compared to 2019.

One of the major areas to address in unburdening the health system is the promotion of health and prevention of disease. Any effective disease-prevention intervention will of course only pay off in the long run, but nevertheless needs to be the focus of health policy planning to ensure its success. the main focus in this opinion piece is prevention through health technologies.

Health Tech as a medium

Discovery’s early partnership with Apple – where insurance customers could ‘pay’ for a smartwatch by reaching monthly activity goals was groundbreaking. Since then, health tech has matured significantly. It offers a much wider range of interventions that – in our view – must be tried and expanded. to make prevention addressable in the long run.

Out of system prevention

A vast array of evidence is underlining the personal health gains from using digital health technologies. From smoking cessation and improving healthier habits to reducing relapse in addiction and controlling stress and emotional wellbeing. Significant results are today noticed from companies – like insomnia app – can be used to prevent and as a first line intervention.

In-system prevention

Health tech can assist healthcare staff and have a positive impact on long term costs in multiple areas. We take neurodegenerative diseases and Alzheimers as example. An early detection of Alzheimers signs could lead to interventions that delay its onset and the time in assisted living. Once in assisted living, health tech solutions can be used to predict and prevent falls and reduce the monitoring burden on staff while ensuring a better, undisturbed quality of life for the care home residents. Today – there are working solutions for all these area, albeit sparsely used.

Who’s paying?

Globally, 60% of all deaths are related to lifestyle and preventable disease. Making health tech a more significant part of the solution requires the right factor conditions as much as maturity of solutions. Specifically:

  • Reimbursement. A clear path to reimbursement similar to the German DiGa or the Belgian mHealth Validation Pyramid is crucial for long term adoption
  • Standards. With new ways of gathering data and measuring outcomes and different risk standards need to be clear and tailored to health tech as a new class of medical interventions.
  • Health tech education. On all levels – beyond medical school – taught for the benefit of the population

Not the least, builders must ensure that evidence, ethics and usability are at the core of every solution. In Denmark we need to establish a tighter relation and work in co-active public-private partnerships and build what is needed. Unburdening health professionals, empowering people and communities, increasing health and high, long term health impact must be our core pillars. Most of all, we have a duty not to waste any time ourselves: we must prioritise adopting and scaling what already works.