Healthcare IT: UK a European Leader of Investment

Pharma IQ

Over the past few years, the UK healthcare IT market has grown exponentially to reach an estimated value of almost $3 billion (£1.83 billion) in 2011, making it the second largest in Europe after Germany. And it seems the UK market is set to enjoy more growth than virtually every other region in years to come, though the entire continent is experiencing a notable upsurge in investment.

According to the latest Ovum forecast, spending on healthcare IT in the UK will have topped $5 billion in 2016, representing cumulated annual growth (CAGR) of 13 per cent from 2010. Experts at the independent technology analyst identified Britain's rapidly ageing population as the key driver behind increased investment, as well as the desperate need to reduce costs across the healthcare sector. Cornelia Wels-Maug, healthcare technology analyst at Ovum, highlighted the fact that of all the regions examined, the UK would account for the strongest growth over the five-year forecast period.

She explained: "This is primarily because of the National Programme for IT in the NHS, a multi-billion pound government scheme to implement healthcare IT. A key driver of the investment is the urgent need to do more with less, due to the ever-increasing number of patients with chronic illnesses as the population lives longer." Ms Wels-Maug went on to say that the cost of delivering a healthcare service that refuses to compromise on quality was "spiralling out of control" and that further investment in IT would form a critical part of the solution.

In Europe as a whole, the Ovum report suggested telehealth, where services such as condition monitoring are delivered through telecommunications technology, would see most growth, with a CAGR of 15.1 per cent. This was closely followed by health information exchanges (HIE), with predicted annual growth of 13.2 per cent over the next five years. The key investment areas for the UK, meanwhile, look set to be electronic health records (EHR) and digital imaging solutions, not least the increasingly in-demand picture archiving system.

Ms Wels-Maug commented: "Increasing access, accuracy, and availability of healthcare data are absolutely fundamental to cutting costs. It reduces double testing of patients for various diseases and improves the overall efficiency of hospitals and surgeries." Another emerging technology is software for mobile apps that enables patients to monitor their own condition, as well as tools that can stop them from becoming unwell in the first place. "This is an area where we will see more and more investment. While it is primarily a solution that younger people will engage with, there is potential for it to be a useful tool in the management and prevention of diseases," the Ovum analyst explained.
While the UK was found to have the greatest potential for future investment in healthcare IT, all of the regions analysed in the study were said to be destined for an upsurge. In Germany, the growth rate is forecast to be 9.7 per cent from 2010 to 2016, while the French market is expected to increase by 9.1 per cent in the same period. Outside of Europe, North America was found to be looking at a CAGR of 12.7 per cent, while Australian investment will expand by 9.8 per cent in the same timeframe.

Healthcare providers across the continent are increasingly seeing the future potential of EU-wide e-health collaboration, with the universal aim of boosting efficiency and improving patient outcomes. As healthcare IT professionals work toward these goals by carefully selecting, implementing and building upon existing informatics, investment in the UK and throughout Europe will surely meet, if not exceed, expectations.