Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies can contribute to growing the technology's availability.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digitization of the UK National Health Service (NHS), and since the UK medical device sector is import-led, with most domestically-produced products exported to other markets, COVID-19 has created a significant opportunity for telehealth software solutions and equipment, including cameras and handheld consoles, integrated medical scopes, vitals sign monitors, and recording and wearable devices.

In its broadest definition, technology-enabled health care services include telehealth, telecare, telemedicine, telecoaching and self-care in providing care for patients that is convenient, accessible and cost-effective.  The UK’s Technology Enabled Care Services Resource for Commissioners has been developed by NHS commissioners to help maximize the value of technology-enabled care for patients, caregivers and the whole health economy.

In January 2019, the country’s National Health Service Long Term Plan was introduced, mandating health care providers to make better use of data and digital technology, providing better access to digital tools and patient records for staff, and calling for improvements to the planning and delivery of services based on analysis of patient and population data. Virtually overnight, the coronavirus outbreak accelerated implementation of the plan, causing demand for telemedicine to explode in the UK as primary care doctors adapted to the crisis.

The NHS is expected to receive £6.6 billion over the next four years in response to the pandemic, a significant percentage of which will be used for the widespread implementation of telehealth services across the NHS. As an example, in 2019, less than 1% of the 340 million medical appointments completed annually took place via video link, with the vast majority in person. Now, practitioners assess and triage 100% of patients by phone, with only about 7% proceeding to face-to-face consultations. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently pronounced that “from now on, all consultations should be teleconsultations unless there’s a clinical reason not to.”

In the past, UK telemedicine simply involved streaming doctors from hundreds of miles away for a quick prescription or advice, but throughout the country doctors are now using the same tools to provide their local patients with the same level of initial consultation and treatment. In UK hospitals, telemedicine is also helping in reducing emergency room and routine visits, which is further driving adoption and market growth. Hospitals are using telemedicine for urgent care, primary diagnosis and second opinions, and the technology is helping rural hospitals to provide 24/7 virtual assistance. The growing geriatric population requiring home assistance for monitoring and care is yet another factor driving the growth in telemonitoring services.

In June, Cancer Research UK released figures showing that COVID-19 has led to a backlog of 2.4 million people requiring cancer care. Likewise, a recent study by University College London estimates that over 6,000 additional deaths could occur in England over the next year because of delayed care. It is anticipated that as health care systems begin tackling the backlog in cancer treatment, telemedicine will be key.