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Digi health acceptance soars, data shows

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Europeans are becoming more open to remote treatment via webcam and other digitised medical technologies and techniques in the wake of Covid 19.

The STADA Health Report 2020 shows that while three quarters (74%) of Europeans are satisfied with their own healthcare systems, increasing numbers are looking favourably at treatment via webcam.

Seven in ten Europeans would agree to receive treatment via webcam, compared to 54% the previous year.

The report’s authors speculate that this is attributable to the media’s educational work and the way in which, during the Covid 19 pandemic, webcam treatments for minor ailments release capacity in doctors’ surgeries and reduce the risk of infection.

“The COVID-19 crisis has once more made us aware that health is the ultimate basis of our lives. It has also changed our understanding of healthcare: the esteem of medical professionals is growing,’’ said Peter Goldschmidt, STADA chairman and chief executive.

“Openness for digital medicine is increasing – for example in terms of remote treatments via webcam.”

The British were average in how positive they were when it came to willingness to consult a doctor via a webcam or the internet.

More than two-fifths of UK residents (42%) could imagine using such an option, depending on the medical condition but personal interaction with their doctor was particularly important to 11% of the UK people questioned.

Another fifth (20%) of Brits said virtual consultations would “feel weird”.

This year’s report, the sixth, questioned a representative database of 24,000 people from twelve European countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

Compared to 2019, the report also shows an overall greater openness to digital medicine. For example, 40% of Europeans would use a health app on their smartphone which transmitted the most important data directly to their doctor in order to save the time required for a check-up.

However, the British and Germans were particularly opposed to the digitisation of previously analogue health data.

While many of the Europeans surveyed approve of a digital appointment reminder (56%), the doctor’s letter (53%) and the Certificate of Vaccination (52%), scepticism is exceptionally high in the Germany and the UK because demand for such digital inventions is low at just 16%.

UK nationals were among the least enthusiastic of all nationalities in their willingness to embrace apps to track the progress of treatment by a doctor – only Germans (60%) were less positive.

Data security when using an app was a concern for 17% of British respondents, above the 11% survey average among all 12 surveyed countries, and the joint highest proportion with Germany.

More than a fifth (22%) of British people, versus an average of 16%, saw such apps bringing no value to their life – only Germans (28%) were more sceptical.

However, more than a third of Brits agreed that such apps would save time on visiting doctors and would allow them to react quickly to any changes in their health metrics.

It seems that there is still work to be done in the UK in informing people about the possibilities of digitisation.

Just a fifth (20%) of people in the UK knew they could order prescription medicines online or via mail order only if they submit their prescription by mail or e-mail in advance.

Also, two out of five UK inhabitants admitted that they did not know whether it was possible to obtain prescription drugs through online or mail-order pharmacies in their country.

The report also revealed a significant European-wide scepticism about genetic treatments.

In a hypothetical scenario, only half of the respondents would agree to an alteration of their genes to escape a definite illness detected by means of a gene test.

Spanish respondents were most open to such a procedure (63%), the Swiss were the most reluctant (43%). Overall 49% were too afraid of genetic modifications – the same proportion as in the UK.

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