The conference combined streaming with physical events held at hubs across the globe, allowing socially distanced interactions at locations in Italy, Germany, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Malta and the US.
It also provided an opportunity to reflect on what has been a turning point in digital health history.
Throughout 2020 health systems across the world rapidly switched to, or hugely increased their use of, digital technology as social distancing and lockdown measures were implemented in countries worldwide.
The challenges of COVID-19 forced a significant rethink of digital services and, opening proceedings, conference chairman and CEO of Healthware Roberto Ascione discussed this “new normal” and the sudden interest in digital health technology.
Maintaining Momentum in Digital Health
Dr. Gottfried Ludewig, director-general of digitalization and innovation at the German Federal Ministry of Health, said in a keynote address that maintaining the digital momentum seen this year is a priority while the country hosts the EU presidency over the last six months of 2020.
In a landscape dominated by technology developed by US countries, Ludewig said that Germany’s goal was to encourage the development of digital health technology within the EU.
This could allow European payers more choice as they select technology such as telehealth consultations that have proven so vital over the last year.
Digital health is the basis for a better healthcare system in the future, Ludewig said.
“We are convinced that Europe should play an active role in fostering digital health. We want to create digital solutions here by ourselves.”
Data is the key to better medicines in the future and could help counter pandemics in the future, he added.
A new regulatory framework is due at the end of next year regarding the use of data in the GDPR, he noted.
In a break-out session later in the day, Dr. Michael Bitzer, vice president of consultancy firm Research2Guidance, said that despite a new reimbursement system for digital therapeutics (DTx) in Germany, there is still a reliance on old-fashioned and inefficient technology in hospitals.
Doctors still communicate with physical letters instead of emails and there is still a reliance on technology such as fax machines.