On June 23rd of this year, UK voters made the monumental decision to officially disband from the European Union. Fueled by the desire to be more in control of economic policies and dissatisfaction with current immigration laws, citizens of the United Kingdom Britain voted to leave the EU with a 52% to 48% voting margin. The separation is a process that will span over the next few years, but the “Brexit’s” effect on digital healthcare innovation in the UK may be more immediate.
The European Connected Health Alliance
The EU consists of 28 countries that all work collaboratively to better the European economy and foster the exchange of information. The European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance) works in a similar fashion, except it focuses specifically on the advancement of technology in healthcare. The digital health membership organization has a network of talent that includes over 25 countries, 500 organizations, and countless individuals. ECHAlliance has gained a positive reputation for providing powerful technological solutions for issues in the healthcare industry, but since the organization itself is based out of the UK, there are legitimate concerns regarding the future of the ECHAlliance.
In a press release, the company made the following statement:
“When clarity is available we will stand ready to collaborate with you in whatever new arrangements are announced. Innovation knows no boundaries and the need for it in healthcare and social care is as great regardless of Brexit. The ECHAlliance has an increasing number of Ecosystems and members outside the EU and this can now include our UK members and Ecosystems. So in confused and uncertain times, our message is that we and you have achieved much, with much still to do and together we will find ways to keep doing what we must for the benefit of all.”
According to Digital Health Age, the medtech, pharmaceuticals, digital health and health-tech sectors in the UK employ over 220,000 people, making up a $70 billion industry. Pre-Brexit, a group of notable tech industry leaders had stated their concerns over the UK leaving the EU:
“We see significant advantages… in the UK remaining part of the EU. This would enable the sector to continue to operate within an established and harmonised regulatory approval system, ensuring that UK patients benefit from medicines more quickly, and that medicines researched and manufactured in the UK are available across the EU sooner.”
Though the decision to leave is only a month old, some analysts in the UK are already reporting that many big pharmaceutical companies have surprisingly been unaffected by the Brexit, and its business as usual. Investor relations and financial implications to other members of the sector however, have yet to be seen.
The ECHAlliance has showed their eagerness to continue collaboration, but from where their funding will come is a question that that has yet to be answered.
The EU is a major financial resource for the UK-based organization, and without EU membership those funds may no longer be accessible. Following the Brexit, ECHAlliance must find a new source to replace the grants and monies that will no longer be received.
Despite the potential losses from the British departure, leaders in the UK healthcare and technology industries have made it clear that innovation in the field of medicine and healthcare must continue.