Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Smart health

Case study summary

Case study title: 
Smart health

Smart Health, covering intelligent, networked technologies for improved health provision, is recognised as one of the most promising remedies to the rising per capita healthcare expenditure associated with ageing. Smart Health innovations allow healthcare providers to cure afflictions more effectively, to care for patients more efficiently, and to prevent illnesses more frequently.

Smart Health solutions combine technological developments in mobile and portable devices, mobile data connectivity, application development, sensor technology, and big data analytics and cloud computing, with novel ideas on patient co-management, health monitoring of remote communities, and prevention of unhealthy lifestyles, to name a few. As such, Smart Health has the potential to deeply transform the healthcare sector.

Consequently, Smart Health solutions are considered to have a tremendous market potential, especially given the fact that EU-wide expenditure on medical care and cure is estimated to amount to approximately 10% of gross domestic product. However, quantitative data that falls within the Smart Health domain is rarely tracked or tagged as such in formal statistics. A comparison of several market analysis, as well as the recent EUR 40 billion HITECH act of the Unites States federal government, does show that the market size and growth estimations of Smart Health offer ample opportunities for success to Smart Health entrepreneurs.

Smart Health solution providers offer hospitals and other healthcare organisations the opportunity to not only be more effective and efficient, yet to significantly modernise their healthcare delivery systems. These solution providers are entrepreneurs that combine a strong understanding of the technologies underlying Smart Health solutions with specialised knowledge of specific healthcare challenges, illnesses and afflictions, and with in-depth analysis of specific segments of the healthcare market. This allows them to spot radically new possibilities for care, cure, and prevention.

Smart Health innovation typically generates highly skilled jobs, as Smart Health solutions require technology specialists to develop the technologies that enable their development, as well as tech-savvy hospital staff to manage and operate these solutions.

The drivers that spur Smart Health innovation include continuous developments in ICT, e-location technology, and broadband data connectivity. Also, the economic and societal challenge that ageing poses to Europe encourages both the public and the private sector to explore the possibilities of Smart Health.

The obstacles that hamper the development and uptake of Smart Health include inconsistent and immature technological infrastructure among healthcare providers, unhelpful hospital culture and insurer behaviour towards yet unproven innovations, diverging approaches to electronic health records throughout Europe, and limited financial reach of public sector healthcare organisations.

Policy approaches to address these obstacles could focus on sustaining the technological and financial pillars on which the Smart Health concept is built by continuing to support developments in mobile ICT, broadband connectivity, and Smart Health innovation. Also, increased public sector investments and field demonstration opportunities can remove some of the barriers Smart Health entrepreneurs experience when engaging the European health market.

Moreover, streamlined public-sector procurement processes, fast payment initiatives, and deliberate public-sector procurement of innovation can help Smart Health SMEs survive financially. As a final consideration, Smart Health uptake could benefit from carefully harmonised electronic health records initiatives that address the privacy considerations that exist throughout Europe.