The Danish market for telemedicine is developing rapidly due to an increasing number of chronically ill patients and capacity shortage in Danish hospitals. The health care sector strives for better treatment at lower costs and with fewer resources, which calls for innovative solutions and new technology.
The Danish health care sector is publicly financed with total annual health care expenditures of approximately 37 billion USD (2010), which covers approximately 85 percent of total health care costs and makes up approximately 10 percent of GDP. In addition, a relatively small sub-sector of private health care services is present.
Denmark consists of five regions that are responsible for public hospitals and allocate finances for General Practitioners, specialists, physiotherapists, dentists and pharmacies, and 98 municipalities that cover at least 20,000 inhabitants each and are responsible for nursing homes, home care services and the emerging health centers (rehabilitation and preventive care). There are 67 hospitals, approximately 1000 nursing homes and 2,000 general practitioners. The sector employs about 355,000 people in total, and about 90 percent of the population contacts their doctor annually.
The Danish health care system is among the best in the world in its use and adaptation of IT and it is renowned for its electronic patient record system (CPR), which gives individuals a national identification number and stores personal information.
The Kingdom of Denmark includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are autonomous countries, but subsidized by Denmark. Denmark consists of more than 500 islands, including a small distant island south of Sweden called Bornholm. Such infrastructure enhances the demand for telemedicine. In Greenland, telemedicine research began in 1996 driven by poor infrastructure and severe weather conditions. Greenland gained inspiration from the Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network (AFHCAN) on how the use of telemedicine can improve health care. In 2006, Copenhagen University Hospital launched a project regarding telemedicine consultations in Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Bornholm, in order to reduce the number of patients traveling to Copenhagen. Today, all of Greenland’s villages with more than 50 residents are fully equipped with basic telemedicine equipment, while the Faroe Islands and Bornholm are fully operational for consultations.
Several stakeholders in the Danish health care sector have emphasized telemedicine as one of the most important and promising prospects in the Danish health care market. Like most western countries, Denmark approaches an ageing population and an increased number of chronically ill patients. As a result, home monitoring is expected to boom in the coming years, which will enable a large amount of chronically ill patients to be permanently discharged from the hospital. The implementation of telemedicine in Denmark has thus far been moderate. The five regions do not have a common strategy for implementation of telemedicine and have been running different projects ad hoc. However, in spring 2011, a regional strategy for telemedicine will be conducted in order to optimize hospital management and expand the practical use of modern concepts in telemedicine and to support patients’ self care with the use of home monitoring. In addition to the new strategy, the State will compensate the Danish hospitals with DRG (Diagnosed Related Groups) tariffs, which are an average of the cost the given type of treatments would have cost to perform in a hospital, when a patient agrees to use telemedicine and communicate with the doctor from home. This initiative is intended for four areas: AK (anticoagulation) treatment, COLD treatment, pacemaker, and e-mail consultation. Furthermore, 107.3 million USD have been allocated to intensify the effort on chronically ill patients in general during 2010-2012.
The government entities Digital Health and MedCom are in charge of, respectively, developing and implementing the national telemedicine program.