2nd March 2023
New report sets out recommendations for the introduction of a reimbursement pathway for digital health technologies in Ireland.
EIT Health Ireland-UK, a Co-location Centre of EIT Health, which is part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, a body of the European Union, today launched a new report titled ‘Digital health on prescription – Is Ireland ready?’ This report examines whether key stakeholder groups in Ireland would benefit from a structured certification, prescription and reimbursement process for digital health technologies in future. Taking into account lessons learned from other European Union (EU) Member States in this area, the report sets out recommendations for the successful implementation of a standardised reimbursement pathway, should Ireland follow suit.
During Covid-19, 44% of patients adopted digital health technologies to help manage conditions remotely, according to data gathered by Accenture. This trend means greater access to care for patients, with potential to alleviate pressure on hospital waiting lists.
To ensure safe, certified solutions are recommended to patients, countries such as Germany have introduced legislation to allow for low-risk CE-marked health apps be prescribed to patients by clinicians, with developers of those solutions being reimbursed by insurers. This is known as the ‘DiGA Fast Track’ process. Examples of current approved ‘DiGAs’ include digital health applications to help patients manage back pain, migraines, tinnitus, or anxiety.
In 2022 EIT Health Ireland-UK conducted research to assess whether a DiGA-style model could be feasible in the Irish context in future. Local and international stakeholders including healthcare professionals, regulatory experts, health economists, entrepreneurs, and academics from across the healthcare spectrum provided their perspectives and shared practical advice on potential policy approaches during panel discussions and 1:1 interviews. The report launched today presents findings that emerged such as:
- Growing inconsistencies across EU Member States in terms of what is considered a transformative digital technology.
- Challenges encountered so far in the DiGA Fast Track process.
- Recommendations on how digital health technology assessment responsibility could be shared across Ireland’s state bodies.
- How quality standards and criteria for assessment could be established in Ireland.
- The importance of stakeholder collaboration and engagement from the start.
“Creating a standardised reimbursement pathway could have multiple benefits for patients, clinicians, and of course the many healthtech start-ups fostered here in Ireland. Core to what we do at EIT Health is offer supports to these health innovators as they navigate the regulatory landscape and commercialise their ideas into European markets,” said Elaine Murray, Communications and Public Affairs Lead at EIT Health Ireland-UK. “The report we’re launching today provides a blueprint for how a digital health reimbursement strategy could work in practice here in Ireland.”
The research contributes to a wider pan-European report published on 1st March 2023 by EIT Health, ‘Digital Medical Devices: Paths to European Harmonisation.’ This analyses the various approaches taken so far across Member States and sets recommendations for European convergence on digital health policy. EIT Health also coordinates a taskforce which aims to harmonise approval procedures for digital health technologies across Europe.
To mark the launch of ‘Digital health on prescription – Is Ireland ready?’, EIT Health Ireland-UK hosted a free online event on 2ndMarch 2023. Key contributors to the report debated whether an ‘apps on prescription scheme’ is feasible in the Irish context. Watch the event on demand.