Big news in healthcare last week as RIZIV announced that medical apps (mobile health applications and mHealth tools) can be reimbursed from now on. A leap forward, as digital products in healthcare dwindled due to high development costs. It’s a staggering announcement that will undoubtedly shake things up in the digital landscape of healthcare. We took a look at what this exactly means for both the life science industry and its patients.
Last week, the National Institute for Sickness and Disability Insurance (RIZIV) announced that medical apps can be eligible for reimbursement. Just like visiting a doctor, following therapy or buying medication, mobile health applications and mHealth tools qualify for reimbursement through your health insurance. A decision that puts Belgium in a leading role on the European market.
This decision is the final piece of the triple-layered validation pyramid, created by mHealthBelgium. In the first level of the validation pyramid, apps receive the CE-mark, a necessary mark for mobile applications as a medical device. In the second level, they prove themselves in terms of authentication and privacy. Now, a third level is installed, where they can ultimately demonstrate their socio-economic added value to enable reimbursement by RIZIV. And that makes all the difference.
An unseen boost for remote healthcare
This reimbursement will be a radical stimulant for the development and usage of health apps. Simply said: reimbursement of an app means more users. More users means increased demand for apps. More demand leads to more innovation. This logical evolution will ultimately benefit all stakeholders.
On the side of practitioners and healthcare institutions, the increased development of health-related digital products can lead to multiple benefits. Just think of unburdening the staff, speeding up time-consuming processes and highly detailed patient’s information which enables more efficient prevention, diagnosis & treatment.
The patients, on the other hand, gain access to more and better applications that can benefit every step in the patient’s journey, from prevention and diagnostics to treatment and aftercare. And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.
Out-of-hospital care as the new normal
It’s a gigantic step to out-of-hospital care. The democratization of healthcare apps will boost remote medical assistance from home and that comes with a huge advantage: the possibility to continuously monitor medical data, which in turn ensures much more personal and precise diagnoses, adjustments or treatments.
Take epilepsy, for example, a disease with hundreds of variants. This makes it extremely difficult to prescribe the right medication. In our interview with Hans Danneels from Byteflies, we learned that 1 in 3 epileptic patients don’t have the correct medication due to lack of MedTech.
In most cases of epilepsy, the patient isn't always aware of having a seizure. This leaves doctors with almost no data to draw conclusions from. With an epilepsy application, data can be monitored 24/7. A doctor, provided with that data, has a much better overview and analysis of that person’s specific case, allowing him to prescribe a more adequate treatment.
The need for a mature application
Given the above, the creation and implementation of mobile health applications will definitely flourish. But more applications in the market also mean more competition. That’s why we’ll see a maturing process of digital health products.
Whereas most health applications today remain fairly basic and limited in possibilities, the need for proper digital platform architecture, thought-out user experience and state-of-the-art software engineering will peak in the upcoming years.
Healthcare & life science institutions who aim to explore digital products should certainly keep in mind to not only create a functioning application but to go for nothing else than an application that is extremely well-built and appealing to the user.